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MMDB−The Mathematical Movie Database
by Burkard Polster and Marty Ross
Last updated: 18 March, 2017.
(Recent additions will be marked with a $$$)
(TV episodes can now be found at our MTVDB)
Must-See maths Movies (criteria: fun, full of maths, enjoyed watching)
The Complete List
Still To Locate (Help!)
This page, along with our TV Database, complements our book Mathematics goes to the movies. It contains a list of titles and short descriptions of about 800 movies that contain mathematics. Also included are links to the respective entries in the International Movie Database (IMDB) and links to clips from some of the movies. Titles will continue to be added, and more clips from these movies will be regularly added to our movie clips page.
What's the point? About ten years ago, on a whim, we began to collect movies containing mathematics. Now, as a consequence of that whim, we own a library of more than 800 movies on DVD, VHS, 16 mm, Laserdisc, and some strange thing called a CED video disc. The movies range from those expressly about mathematicians, to those that, for whatever reason, just happen to have a snippet of humorous mathematical dialogue. Over the years, we have found that it is not only professional mathematicians who find the fun in this cinematic mathematics. Just about everybody is charmed by Meg Ryan explaining Zeno's paradox in I.Q., Danny Kaye singing about Pythagoras's theorem in Merry Andrew, Lou Costello explaining to Bud Abbott why 7 x 13 =28 in In the Navy, and so on. Our book is an attempt to identify, organize, and engagingly present this fascinating and funny material.
Some movie math is really, really dull. Even limiting to the good stuff, trying to cram everything in our collection into this one book would have resulted in a bloated, boring mess. However, we did want to be comprehensive, and to make available as much of our source material as possible. We found that the best way to do this was to create this page. Also as we learn of movies, new and old, we will add details to this page. By doing so, we hope to extend our book and to keep it up to date.
Other websites. There are a number of other websites dedicated to mathematics in the movies that you may also want to check out. Most importantly, there is Alex Kasman's Mathematical Fiction Homepage and Oliver Knill's collection of mathematical movie clips (a lot of the links on this page will lead you to this page). For those who read Spanish, there is a huge series of articles by our Spanish doppelgänger, Alfonso Jesús Población. Also make sure to check out simpsonmaths.com, a comprehensive website dedicated to mathematics in The Simpsons. Everything about maths in Futurama can be found in the maths section of the amazing site La indoblable pagina de Bender bending Rodriguez. Also check out some of the websites that talk about the mathematics in the various episodes of the TV series Numb3rs such as Wolfram's Numb3rs website.
Contact. If you know of any mathematical movie or TV episode not on our list, if you spot a mistake, or if you would like to get in touch with us about anything whatsoever, we'd be delighted for you to contact us:
(The logo for this page is taken from the movie A Beautiful Mind, where it appears on the rear window of the car of the newly-wed Alicia and John. The idea for this great way of expressing mathematically the idea of two people getting closer over time is due to Dave Bayer, the maths consultant of A Beautiful Mind.)
Must-See maths Movies (criteria: fun, full of maths, enjoyed watching)
The Bank (2001) IMDB A maths prodigy takes revenge on a bank. Tons of maths. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
A Beautiful Mind (2001) IMDB A movie about the brilliant mathematician John Nash, who won the Nobel Prize in economics for his work in game theory. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Breaking the Code (1996) (TV) IMDB A great movie about the mathematician and logician Alan Turing, played by Derek Jacobi. Clip on our maths clips page. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Cube (1997) IMDB Six people wake up in a deadly maze, full of mathematical clues. Clip on Oliver Knill's page
Cube 2: Hypercube (2002) IMDB A new bunch of victims in a new deadly maze, this time supposedly a hollow hypercube. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Donald in Mathmagicland (1959) IMDB This movie is for mathematics what Disney's Fantasia is for classical music. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Eustice Solves a Problem (2004) A terrific short film, set around a children's quiz program in 1958.
Fermat's Last Tango (2001) IMDB Terrific musical about Fermat's last theorem, featuring Andrew Wiles, Pythagoras, Gauss, Euclid, Newton, and a deliciously vain Pierre de Fermat.
Fermat's Room (La Habitación de Fermat) (2007) IMDB Four mathematicians are trapped in a shrinking room that can only be stopped from shrinking by solving a number of puzzles. The Goldbach conjecture plays a major role. Clip on Oliver Knill's page
Flatland: The Movie (2007) IMDB State of the art animated adaptation of Edwin Abbot's classic Flatland. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Futurama − Ep 6.10: The Prisoner of Benda (2010) IMDB The only TV epsiode ever to have its own theorem. Professor Farnsworth's mind-switching machine can't directly switch the same two minds back into the original bodies. The characters' bodies and minds get hugely tangled, but the Harlem Globetrotters prove that any such tangle can always be inverted using two extra people: "And they say pure maths has no real world applications!" The complete proof is shown. At one point Bender, in Amy's body, has to prove he's a robot, but he fails when he doesn't know the square root of 9: "OK, look, I'm not that kind of robot."
Good Will Hunting (1997) IMDB Movie about a maths prodigy with tons of mathematics. Clips on Oliver Knill's page.
$$$ Hidden Figures (2016) IMDB Not the masterpiece people are declaring, but a polished and reasonably accurate movie about the black women "computers", in particular Katherine Johnson, who worked for NASA in the 50s and 60s. More a movie about racism than mathematics (just as A Beautiful Mind was a movie about schizophrenia), but plenty of blackboards with orbital equations and (horrendous) numerical calculations. The mathematics that is discussed is extensively simplified, more along the lines of relevant buzzwords than an accurate portrayal of the mechanics NASA had to come to terms with.
Hotel Hilbert (1996) IMDB A brilliant bringing to life of David Hilbert's idea of an infinite hotel. Packed full of references to properties and paradoxes of the infinite, all done with great atmosphere and a great sense of fun. Clip on our maths clips page.
In the Navy (1941) IMDB Just one scene: the famous and hilarious routine in which Costello proves 7x13=28 in three different ways. For other versions, by Abbott and Costello and others, see discuss of the original version 1928 version here, as well as this, this, this, this, this, and this this. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
It's My Turn (1980) IMDB Light romantic movie about a female mathematician. Famous among mathematicians because the full proof of the Snake Lemma is given in the first scene. Tons of mathematics and mathspotting on blackboards. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Lambada (1990) IMDB Stand and Deliver with dirty dancing. Blade is a supercool maths teacher who inspires his students. Most memorable cheesy scene: Blade demonstrates the usefulness of maths by making a near impossible three-cushion (pool) shot using "the rectangular coordinate system" and a protractor. Clip on our maths clips page.
The Mirror has Two Faces (1996) IMDB A romantic comedy about a maths professor who is dragged out of his shell. Tons of maths. Clips on our maths clips page. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Mozart and the Whale (2005) IMDB A charming romantic movie about two people with Asperger's syndrome, one with strong mathematical abilities. Some touching and funny scenes about mathematical literalism and factoring license plates.
The Oxford Murders (2008) IMDB A fun murder mystery with two mathematicians (John Hurt and Elijah Wood) taking on the role of detectives. One scene has a professor proving "Bormat's Last Theorem". Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Pi (1998) IMDB The mathematical prodigy Max is looking for pattern in nature and in the stock market. Tons of maths.
The Professor and his Beloved Equation (Hakase no Aishita Sûshiki) (2006) IMDB Lovely movie about a mathematics professor who only remembers things for a short time. He likes perfect and amicable numbers and his favorite equation is Euler's identity: eiπ+1 = 0.
Proof (2005) IMDB Excellent adaptation of David Auburn's excellent play. Gwyneth Paltrow is a troubled mathematician, coming to terms with the death of her troubled mathematician father. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
The Simpsons: Homer3 (1995) (TV, and 3D IMAX) IMDB Homer stumbles into a 3D world, filled to the brim with mathematical bits and pieces.
Solid Geometry (2002) (TV) IMDB A man reads his grandfather's work on "a plane without a surface", and applies it to make his unwanted girlfriend disappear.
Stand and Deliver (1988) IMDB Great movie about the legendary maths teacher Jaime Escalante, motivating his students in a poor school in East Los Angeles. Clip on our maths clips page. Clips on Oliver Knill's page.
The Twilight Zone: I of Newton (1985) IMDB "I'd sell my soul to get this right", exclaims a frustrated mathematician. The devil promptly appears to accept the trade.
The Complete List
Here is our complete list of over 800 movies. To make browsing easier, we have included a star rating for mathness, in either fun or quality or quantity: from ***** for the movies above, down to * for minimal maths content.
12 Angry Men (1957) IMDB * Probability is used by a jury member to cast doubt on the accused's guilt.
12 to the Moon (1960) IMDB ** A mathematician on a spaceflight performs some implausible calculations.
1984 (1984) IMDB ** A man gets brainwashed into believing that 2+2=5. Iconic scene.
2010 (1984) IMDB * A monolith left by aliens has proportions 1:4:9.
21 (2008) IMDB *** Kevin Spacey is a maths professor who organizes some of his students into a team of blackjack players. The Monty Hall puzzle has a large scene. Newton's method and Fibonacci numbers make brief appearances, and there are some nice blackboards with Cauchy sequences and continued fractions. Clip on our maths clips page. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
21 Grams (2003) IMDB ** The main character is a mathematician, who engages in "maths is beautiful" philosophizing.
23 (1998) IMDB ** The original German movie, with a guy obsessing on appearances of the number 23: so, 11 + 12 = 23, and so on. The number 5 is also important, since 2+3=5. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
The 27th Day (1957) IMDB * Some helpful aliens gives doomsday devices to Professor Bechner and others. The Professor deciphers the mathematical symbols − "In mathematics there is always a solution" − ensuring only bad guys are doomed (mostly Russians), and peace reigns.
3:19 Nada es Casualidad (2008) IMDB *** Live action movie with an extended animation sequence on the final days of Évariste Galois.
The 39 Steps (1935) IMDB ** A performing mnemonist memorizes secret mathematical plans.
4D Man (1959) IMDB * "You've compressed the energy of years into a moment." "But ... that's like ... the forth dimension!". Well, maybe not. But the mad scientist being able to pass through solid objects could actually be given a 4D explanation.
The 4th Dimension (2006) IMDB *** Excellent, strange movie about Jack, who is trying to fix time. A few equations, and Einstein makes an appearance. A classroom scene with Jack daydreaming in a geometry lesson. The teacher confronts him and asks him what is the shortest distance between two points. Jack declines to to answer, and then explains that there is no such thing as a straight: a semi-accurate explanation of geodesics and surfaces curving through space. Clip on our maths clips page.
A-Ducking They Did Go (1939) IMDB ** The three stooges have a funny 1-liner on percentages.
About a Boy (2002) IMDB * Includes a classroom scene in which a teacher talks about the significance of the decimal point.
The Absent-Minded Professor (1961) IMDB * We see the absent-minded professor (not a mathematician) in front of blackboards filled with formulas.
Aces (2006) IMDB ** maths majors, one with the alias "Theorem Girl", spend the summer playing poker. Their probability isn't quite right.
The Accountant (2001) IMDB ** Quirky short film about a very weird accountant who comes to save a family farm. He calculates on his fingers and by stamping his feet: "A man who won't add his own numbers ain't much of a man in my book".
Act Your Age (1949) IMDB ** Unintentionally hilarious morality short. Jim gets frustrated with some simultaneous equations, and starts carving his initials into the school desk. Actually, it's hard to blame him: the equations are 3x+4y+3z =14, 2x+y/2+z=16 and y+3z=6, with solution x=244/33, y=−156/33, z=118/33.
The Adding Machine (1969) IMDB * A counting-obsessed accountant named Zero commits a murder.
After Midnight (Dopo Mezzanotte) (2004) IMDB **** The lead characters win the lottery by playing the first few Fibonacci numbers. They spout the usual lines about Fibonacci numbers in nature.
Alexander the Great (1956) IMDB * Quick 1-liner from young Alexander about learning logic and mathematics at the feet of Aristotle, while his father hogs the glory of conquest.
Agora (2009) IMDB **** Turgid telling of the story of Hypatia. Lots of loony Christians, but not so much maths. Hypatia's father, Theon of Alexandria, appears. There's some conics and some musing over planetary motion, and a good scene where Hypatia draws an ellipse in the sand. This is used as a metaphor, indicating what may have been lost by Hypatia's murder.
Alien Hunter (2003) IMDB *** The main character is an expert cryptanalyst. Very funny blooper involving the chances of something being "99 to the infinite ...", but not 100.
All In (2006) IMDB * A silly poker movie, with a few nonsensical percentages thrown in to make it sound plausible.
$$$ All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) IMDB *** Very odd little scene, with a soldier at the front entertaining himself by learning the formula for the sum of an arithmetic series.
Amarcord (1973) IMDB ** A student is at the board, trying to solve 32x2+280x+118 =0. Eventually the teacher helps: her answer is incorrect. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
The Amateur (1981) IMDB * A spy is writing a book on Elizabethan codes and ciphers.
The American President (1995) IMDB ** One of the President's aides is a mathematician.
Amy & Isabelle (2001) (TV) IMDB *** A teacher talks of the beauty and usefulness of maths. Extended classroom scene on right triangles, and an extended scene on Millay's famous poem: "Euclid alone has looked on beauty bare".
Angels & Demons (2009) IMDB ** Ambigrams are a theme in the movie, and there's a bit of number mysticism centred on 503.
$$$ Anna to the Infinite Power (1983) IMDB ** A child prodigy turns out to be the clone of an infinite physicist. A pretty funny scene, where the music turns out to be able to calculate cube roots.
Annapolis (2006) IMDB ** Navy recruits learn calculus, and give strange map coordinates: "65 degrees 85 minutes North".
Another Gay Movie (2006) IMDB ** The things we have to watch for this webpage! Andy fantasises having sex during a maths class with his teacher, Mr. Puckov. Averting our eyes, we noticed the surface integrals on the blackboard behind them.
Antonia's Line (1995) IMDB *** A movie about a wunderkind who becomes a mathematician. Wunderkind calculations, and a homological algebra lecture with commuting diagrams on blackboards. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Apocalypse Now (1979) IMDB * Dennis Hopper (as the relatively sane one!) tries to explain Marlon Brando to Michael Sheen: "This is dialectics. It's very simple dialectics, one through nine. No maybes, no supposes, no fractions. You can't travel in space, you can't go out into space, you know, without like you know, uh, with fractions. What are you gonna land on? 1/4, 3/8?" Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Apollo 13 (1995) IMDB * A slide rule appears in one scene, when Mission Control checks Jim Lovell's (Tom Hanks') gimbal angle conversions. Apparently this is not a blooper, despite some such claims. Slide rules are pointless for addition and subtraction, but there is more to the gimbal calcualtions than that. John Llewellyn was the real life slide rule guy, and claims he did use a slide rule for such calculations.
Are You With It? (1948) IMDB **** Donald O'Connor plays Milton Haskins, an actuary who misplaces a decimal point, and despondently quits to become a carny. Some very funny bits, with Milton doing instantaneous calculations with a slide rule. He determines when a poker machine will pay off as "a simple problem in arithmetical progressions ... on the second winning play a combination had been reached, equal to the square root of 322 million raised to the 11th power ... one more play should produce the Johnpot". Milton also explains that "dancing is merely a question of applied mathematics": he demonstrates, with 3 times 2 times 2, leading to a terrific tapdancing routine. Clip on our maths clips page.
The Arrival (1996) IMDB *** Very funny blooper involving an incorrect way to add percentages. Clip on our maths clips page.
Atama-yama (2002) IMDB ** Weird cartoon, culminating with a man having his smaller self sitting on his head, in an infinite descending sequence.
Attack Girls' Swim Team Versus the Undead (2007) IMDB *** Hilarious Z grade horror scene, where the maths teacher turns into a zombie while asking a word problem. Then he starts chopping off limbs using his metal rulers. Clip on our maths clips page.
Au hasard Balthazar (1966) IMDB ** The main character is a donkey. He becomes a circus act, and correctly calculates 834 x 3.
Au Revoir Les Enfants (1987) IMDB *** A teacher discusses the fact that in a quadrilateral circumscribed around a circle, the sum of two opposite sides is equal to the sum of two remaining sides.
The Avengers (1998) IMDB ** Uma Thurman runs down an Escherlike staircase and into a Pacmanlike maze of rooms.
The Aviator (2004) IMDB *** Howard Hughes passes off a meteorologist as a mathematician to a censorship board objecting to Hughes's movie. The "mathematician" uses calipers to prove that Jane Russel's décolleté is consistent with that of other movie stars.
Bachelor of Hearts (1958) IMDB *** A sweet comedy about a German student who visits Oxford to study mathematics, and finds beer and romance. He tries to become first wrangler (which is difficult, given he's not at Cambridge). There's some maths around the edges.
Back to the Future Part III (1990) IMDB ** The heroes "think four-dimensionally" in order to drive a locomotive towards a bridge that hasn't been built yet. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
$$$ The Bad News Bears (1976) IMDB * A "Sure ain't like algebra, is it?" 1-liner.
Ball of Fire (1941) IMDB *** Fun movie about a team of stuffy academics being charmed by Barbara Stanwyck. When Isaac Newton is raised, she refers to herself as just another apple. The mathematician tries to find the common denominator of her syncopated dance moves, and argues from relativity that the signpost ran into their car. The academics argue over whether the correct grammar is "two and two is five", or "two and two are five". They also use Archimede's mirrors idea to thwart the bad guys. Clip on our maths clips page.
The Bank (2001) IMDB ***** A maths prodigy takes revenge on a bank. Tons of maths.
Baraka X−77 (1966) IMDB * The cracking of Professor Sartan's code, and mention of a book "Introduction to the theory of tensor equations".
Batman (1966) IMDB *** "Penguin, Joker, Riddler, and Cat Woman, too. The sum of the angles of that rectangle is too monstrous to contemplate!"
Battlefield Earth (2000) IMDB *** The hero is put into a learning machine and learns about maths: Equilateral triangles, quadratic formula, etc.
Battle of the Worlds (Il Pianeta Degli Uomini Spenti) (1961) IMDB *** Crazy mathematician does calculus on flowerpots. Pythagoras's harmony of the spheres gets a mention.
A Beautiful Mind (2001) IMDB ***** An excellent movie about the brilliant mathematician John Nash, who won the Nobel Prize in economics for his work in game theory. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Beautiful Ohio (2006) IMDB **** Excellent, dark movie about a maths prodigy and his family, seen through the eyes of his less brilliant brother. "Square root of 56 389". "237 point, about 46". "That truly is extraodinary. Where do you get that from?" "From the back of the sock drawer". Maths scattered throughout, including the famous weighing puzzle of 12 coins containing a counterfeit.
Bedazzled (1967) IMDB *** Peter Cook, as the devil, explains to Dudley Moore that everything he's ever said to him is a lie. A very funny display of the Liar's Paradox. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Bedazzled (2000) IMDB *** Elizabeth Hurley as a devil-teacher, denouncing Fermat's last theorem as useless. Clip on our maths clips page. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
The Beginning or the End (1947) IMDB * Movie about the making of the atom bomb. One scene pans across academics working on supposedly relevant mathematics: mostly long division of polynomials.
Believers (2007) (V) IMDB *** A movie about a loony cult, whose leader think a PDE and killing themselves will save them from the end of the world. The loons turn out to be correct.
The Belly of an Architect (1987) IMDB * Nice scene in which the main character of the movie discusses the portrait of Isaac Newton on an old British 1 pound note.
The Best of Youth (La Meglio Gioventù) (2003) IMDB ** Giulia explains that she started studying maths because she wanted to solve the problem of the jealous husbands: three couples want to cross the river in a boat which only holds two people, and each jealous husband refuses to have his wife left with other men. Giulia's audience doesn't get very far with the solution.
Better Off Dead (1985) IMDB *** A comedy in which a maths teacher doing really boring and nonsensical maths is worshipped by his students. Clip on our maths clips page.
Bianca (1984) IMDB **** A murderous maths teacher. Classroom scenes feature calculus and Dürer's magic square.
Big (1988) IMDB ** Tom Hanks helping a kid with his algebra homework. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
$$$ Big Shot: Confessions of a Campus Bookie (2002) IMDB ** Very funny scene of a student who has partied all night being called on in class by his maths lecturer.
Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (1991) IMDB *** Bill and Ted (Keanu Reeves) run into Colonel Oats, who makes them do infinity push-ups. They contemplate that it might be possible if they're allowed to do them girly style.
Bingo (1991) IMDB *** Bingo is a very smart dog: he can do square roots. Clip on our maths clips page.
The Birds (1963) IMDB * Some arithmetic problems on the blackboards in one scene.
Blackboard Jungle (1955) IMDB ** Josh decries the quality of his students. "They don't even know their multiplication tables!" "Of course not. All they can multiply is themselves." Later, Edwards tries to connect music to mathematics: the students respond by destroying his record collection.
Black Narcissus (1947) IMDB * Nuns teaching in the Himalayas, with a little algebra in one scene.
The Black Shell (2008) IMDB **** Excellent short film, with a probability theme. Abby is a PhD student performing a computer graphics version of the monkeys and typewriters. The difficulty of winning the lottery is illustrated by trying to pick a black pasta shell out of a bowl of shells. Abby's daughter picks the black shell first go.
Blaise Pascal (1972) (TV) IMDB ** Lots of philosophy and essentially no maths in Roberto Rossellini's biopic. The mathematician Marin Mersenne makes a brief appearance.
Bloodfist VIII: Trained to Kill (1996) IMDB ** The main character is an ex-spy and martial art expert posing as a maths teacher.
Bloodhounds of Broadway (1952) IMDB *** Numbers Foster uses his mathematical talents as a bookie. A very funny scene where Numbers practises multiplication to help him relax. One blooper, where Numbers claims that 52 x 95 = 5044.
The Blue Angel (Der Blaue Engel) (1930) IMDB * In one scene, the blackboard behind Professor Unrat contains some trigonometry.
Botchan (1980) * Animated version of this traditional Japanese story about a teacher. Some geometry in a couple classroom scenes.
Box of Moon Light (1996) IMDB ** Gigantic flash cards for learning the times tables keep reappearing. They don't seem to do a lot of good.
Brain Dead (1987) IMDB *** An insane mathematician is in possession of a valuable formula. Great blackboard, where a ton of calculations = BOOM! Clip on our maths clips page.
$$$ Bratz (2007) IMDB ** A stereotypical asian math girl, who gets called over with "check out this radical theorem". A silly tutoring scene with the girl helping the football team.
Brave Archer 3 (Se Diu Ying Hung Juen Saam Jaap) (1981) IMDB *** This movie features a 10x10 magic square. The properties of magic squares are explained using the usual 3x3 magic square. And a problem is posed: ``A number that divided by 3 leaves 2, divided by 5 leaves 3 and divided by 7 leaves 2. What is the number?''
Breaking the Code (1996) (TV) IMDB ***** A great movie about the mathematician and logician Alan Turing. Fibonacci numbers make a notable appearance.
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) IMDB ** "If you make one [parachute] jump you've got 50% chance of injury. If you make two, 80%, and three you are bound to catch a packet. ... go ahead and jump and hope for the best". Response from the jumper: "With or without parachute?"
Brutal (2007) IMDB **** A mild-mannered science teacher uses Fibonacci numbers and flowers to plan his murders.
Buck Privates (1941) IMDB **** Abbott and Costello have some hilarious math-based routines.
Bullshot (1983) IMDB *** How to hunt: "By rapidly calculating the pigeon's angle of elevation in the reflection of your monocle, then subtracting the refractive index of its lens, I positioned myself at a complementary axis and fired." And a dumb blonde recalls a formula: "It started with a capital N, and then there was a little A, followed by a 3. Ah, then there was a squiggle above a tick, and ah ... a hot cross bun sign." Clips on our maths clips page.
Butterfly Dreaming (2008) IMDB *** A stylish dream-or-reality movie, where the main character, Rob, is a mathematics professor. There's a couple fleeting references to homomorphisms and stable homotopies, and a very nice image of cycloids, made by following the reflectors on bicycle wheels. There's also a blooper where Rob estimates the number of leaves on a tree by imagining 12 branchings, and then 212 is supposedly about 8000. Clip on Oliver Knill's page
Cabiria (1914) IMDB *** The earliest movie we know of containing maths. Archimedes uses a compass (?) to design his ship-burning mirrors. Clip on our maths clips page.
Caddyshack (1980) IMDB ** Comedy golf scene: to illustrate that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, Chevy Chase makes his ball jump over another one into the hole. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Calabuch (1956) IMDB ** Some singing of times tables, and a retired physicist writes some equations on a wall.
Carreteras Secundarias (Backroads) (1997) IMDB * In a failed attempt to keep him from his father's criminal ways, Felipe is provided with a tutor: "OK, again. The derivative of the function at x is the tangent of the curve at the given point. ... it's very easy, it's just you don't pay attention. The tangent and derivative are the same." Felipe punches the tutor in the nose.
Carry on Teacher (1959) IMDB ** A smug supervisor interrupts maths class, to test how kids react to him noting down two-digit numbers with the two digits reversed. Ends with a kid asking him to write down 33. Clip on our maths clips page.
Cartesius (1974) (TV) IMDB *** More philosophy than maths in Roberto Rossellini's biopic. One extended scene has Descartes solving a gravitational problem posed by the mathematician Isaac Beeckman. The mathematician Marin Mersenne makes a brief appearance.
Casino Royale (2006) IMDB * M describes the villain Le Chiffre as a mathematical prodigy. Bond apparently isn't: he declares Le Chiffre had a 23 to 1 chance of the river card turning his two pair into a full house. The correct odds are 10.5 to 1. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Cast Away (2000) IMDB ** Tom Hanks calculates the size of the circular area that his rescuers will have to search. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
The Cat from Outer Space (1978) IMDB ** The cat from outer space compliments a human on his equations: "They are really not bad at all, for a human."
C'est le Tangente Que Je Préfère (1997) IMDB **** Alternate and more accurate title: Love, maths and Sex. The heroine is a mathematical prodigy. The non-sex includes quadratic equations, probability, topology, the Möbius strip, and a maths competition.
Chariton's Choir (I Horodia Tou Hariton) (2005) IMDB ** A Greek love-of-life movie, with "Helen of Troy", a beautiful mathematics teacher, as the love interest. One Pythagoras scene, with all the schoolboys very attentive.
Chaos (2005) IMDB ** A criminal who calls himself Lorentz leaves clues involving chaos theory (invented, according to the movie, by Edward Lorentz). Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Cheating (1952) IMDB ** Silly morality short. John can't factorize x2-9x+20, which leads him to a life of cheating.
$$$ Check and Double Check (1930) IMDB *** Very weird arithmetic, with Amos n' Andy calculating 10% of $12.
Chen Jingrun (2001) **** A 9-hour soapie about the famous Chinese mathematician, documenting Chen's simultaneous struggles with authoritarian thugs and the Goldbach conjecture.
$$$ Cherry (2010) IMDB ** A bright university freshman strays from his studies. A few Archimedes references, and some force and pressure equations.
Chicago (2002) IMDB * "In 47 years, Cook County ain't never hung a woman yet. So, the odds are 47 to 1 that they won't hang you."
Chicken Little (2005) IMDB * In the big game, the baseball scoreboard has the total runs added incorrectly.
Children of the Damned (1963) IMDB * Some geometry in the background, as a creepy child zooms through an I.Q. test.
Christmas Vacation (1989) IMDB * Clark Griswold sets the stage for turning on the Christmas decorations: "Two hundred and fifty strands of lights, one hundred individual bulbs per strand, for a grand total of twenty-five thousand imported Italian twinkle lights. Twenty-five thousand." The lights don't go on. Clip on our maths clips page.
A Chump at Oxford (1940) IMDB * There are publicity stills of Laurel and Hardy in front of a blackboard with arithmetic: 2 + 2 = 7 and 3 + 3 = 9. However, there seem to be no corresponding scene in the movie.
Cipher in the Snow (1973) IMDB * A famous short film, a poignant story of a boy and his maths teacher. No maths.
Citizen Kane (1941) IMDB * Kane (Orson Wells) on blowing money on his pet newspaper: "You are right, I did lose a million dollars last year, I expect to lose a million dollars this year, I expect to lose a million dollars next year. You know at a rate of a million dollars a year I'll have to close this place in 60 years."
Clan of the Cave Bear (1986) IMDB *** Daryl Hannan as a Cro-Magnon woman, the original mathematician. She learns how to count in fives, using a combination of fingers, doubling, and notches on a stick. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Saint Clara (Clara Hakedosha) (1996) IMDB *** Clara twice correctly predicts which 5 questions out of 1000 the mathematics teacher will set on the test. The teacher tries to explain to Clara's parents the unlikelihood of this, by giving the famous example about doubling the grains of rice on the squares of a chess board. Clara's father shows how to divide a cake into seven equal pieces: he divides it into 8 pieces and throws the eighth piece away. Later, the teacher assigns Clara an "impossible problem", √(2-x2) = 4, and all Hell breaks loose.
Class Action (1991) IMDB * An actuarial beancounter shows why it is cheaper to deal with law suits than to fix a deadly fault in some cars.
A Class Apart (2007) (TV) IMDB ** A few maths school scenes, including the familiar "find X" − "Here it is!" Pythagoras joke.
Cloak and Dagger (1946) IMDB *** Gary Cooper in hiding passes the time by drawing on a wall, calculating the arc length of a trigonometric curve.
Clue (1985) IMDB *** Wadsworth the butler and Miss Scarlet have a very funny argument with sums, debating whether a gun is empty.
Clueless (1995) IMDB *** 7 times 7 is apparently too much to ask of someone who is really clueless. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Coach Carter (2005) IMDB * A couple of references to studying maths, and an algebra book.
The Cocoanuts (1929) IMDB *** Groucho and Chico have great fun with numbers at an auction. Chico also makes a pun on the word "radius".
The Code Conspiracy (2001) IMDB ** A silly thriller based around a bunch of guys working on "keyless encryption". Lots of mumbo jumbo in the style of the Bible Code. The main maths guy mentions that primes are random. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Codename Icarus (1981) (TV) IMDB *** Martin is a form 4 student accused of cheating, because he solves a quadratic equation without performing all the steps. In his spare time, Martin corresponds by computer, setting and solving problems on the decomposing of Lie groups.
Colossus: The Forben Project (1970) IMDB *** Colossus is a supercomputer placed in charge of running America. It uses mathematics to establish communication with its Russian counterpart. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969) IMDB ** After Dexter gets zapped and turned into a human computer, he is tested by a panel that includes a professor of mathematics. The professor's first question for Dexter is hopelessly garbled (and wouldn't require calculus to solve as is suggested), though Dexter supposedly answers it correctly. The second question is to find the square root of the ninth power of 13, which Dexter answers correctly. Clip on our maths clips page.
Conceiving Ada (1997) IMDB *** Turgidly told story of the mathematicians Ada Byron and Charles Babbage.
Contact (1997) IMDB *** SETI researchers detect an alien signal. The various layers of information are accessible via prime numbers and a cube. Also features a dodecahedron-shaped space capsule. Clips on Oliver Knill's page.
Copenhagen (2002) (TV) IMDB ** Werner Heisenberg and Nils Bohr are trying to make sense of a meeting they had during World War II. Lots of maths and physics references.
The Core (2003) IMDB ** The first few prime numbers are used to encode a secret message.
The Count of Monte Cristo (2002) IMDB ** The Abbé and the Count calculate their progress with their escape tunnel. "Compute this. 2500 cubic centimeteres of rock and dust per day, for 365 days." "Equals three and a half meters a year, 12 feet, a foot a month, 3 inches a week". Newton's third law also gets a mention, and there appears to be some algebra on the cell wall. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Crazy (2000) IMDB ** A boy in a boarding school has problems with maths (amongst other things).
Crazy First Love (Cheotsarang Sasu Gwolgidaehoe) (2003) IMDB ** Tae-il has worked feverishly on his school exams, to win the hand of Il-mae. He wails about the maths he has endured: "What are all the criticial points, if there are any, of the function k(t) equals 1 divided by the square root of t squared plus 1. Answer. It's critical point is (0,1)!"
Creepshow (1982) IMDB ** Somebody at a party is introduced as a mathematician.
Croupier (1998) IMDB ** Jack haggles with a car dealer over his used car: "How about 1500?" "How about 500?". "What!?" "How about we split the difference? 750." "Is that your idea of arithmetic?" "I'm not a mathematician." Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Cube (1997) IMDB ***** Six people wake up in a deadly maze, full of mathematical clues.
Cube 2: Hypercube (2002) IMDB ***** A new bunch of victims in a new deadly maze, this time supposedly a hollow hypercube.
Cutting Class (1989) IMDB *** A teen slasher flick. At one point, the killer sets the heroes a word problem involving trains, the answer indicating which door leads to safety. The heroes get it wrong.
The Da Vinci Code (2006) IMDB *** The Fibonacci sequence makes an appearance in various scenes. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
D.A.R.Y.L. (1985) IMDB * Daryl is a robot in the form of a child. He has a habit of correcting the last decimal place of a person's calculation.
The Dam Busters (1955) IMDB ** Some vaguely mathematical bits in this movie about the famous bouncing bombs used by the British in WWII. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Dangerous Sex Date (Amorestremo) (2001) IMDB ** A movie consisting of 89 minutes of sex and murder, and 3 seconds of Riemann Christoffel symbols.
The Darwin Awards (2006) IMDB ** Harvey is a cautious man. 70% of accidents occur over the speed limit: allowing for a 10% error, he drives 35 in a 45 zone. Winona Ryder endures the explanation, and Billy Joel's "Slow down, you crazy child ..." playing in the background.
Dark Matter (2007) IMDB ** Excellent movie about a Chinese student who comes to America to do a PhD in cosmology. A little maths in the background.
$$$ Dawn Anna (2005) IMDB ** The main character is a mathematics teacher. A few blackboards, and a bit of discussion of linear equations.
The Day after Tomorrow (2004) IMDB * The teenage hero is introduced as a precocious maths student.
The Day of the Beast (El Dia de la Bestia) (1995) IMDB *** The three heroes are trying to piece together a message from the devil consisting of a some letters written on individual pieces of paper: "My God." "There are hundreds of combinations." "Thousands of millions. There are 15 letters. A permutation of 15 elements with three letters repeated twice, and two letters repeated three times, giving us a total of 4,540,536,000 possibilities" (which is correct). Meanwhile, the dumbest of the three figures out the message.
Day One (1989) (TV) IMDB ** Story of the creation of the atom bomb, featuring Einstein, Oppenheimer and co. Some good blackboards along the way.
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) IMDB *** The alien Klaatu helps Professor Barnhardt with a mathematical problem, and a school boy with his maths homework. Great blackboard! Clip on our maths clips page.
The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008) IMDB ** Awful remake, but Professor Barnhardt still gets help from Klaatu.
Deadly Friend (1986) IMDB ** A robot tries all possible three-number combinations of numbers ranging from 0 to 40, with his creator commenting on the number of such combinations.
Dead Poets Society (1989) IMDB ** Robin Williams as a poetry teacher does not think much of a mathematical way to calculate the greatness of a poem.
Dear Brigitte (1965) IMDB *** People want to use a young's boy mathematical abilities to gamble on the horses, but all he wants is to meet Brigitte Bardot. He gets his wish.
Death of a Cyclist (Muerte de Un Ciclista) (1955) IMDB *** Juan Fernandez is a mathematics professor, though he's too busy having affairs and running over cyclists to concentrate much on his maths. In one extended scene we see an examined student filling a spectacular blackboard, full of cycloids and toroidal equations.
Death of a Neopolitan Mathematician (Morte di un Matematico Napoletano) (1992) IMDB **** Story of the suicide of the Italian mathematician Renato Caccioppoli. Some nice calculus scenes and interesting insights into the world of mathematicians.
Deep Rising (1998) IMDB ** Funny remark about being in the middle of nowhere and heading for "the middle of nowhere squared". A "you do the math" scene, involving the increasing size of murderous squid at increasing depths.
Deja Vu (2006) IMDB ** A scene in which a shortcut in space-time by folding is demonstrated by folding a piece of paper. Reminiscent of a similar scene in The Event Horizon.
Desk Set (1957) IMDB ** Some very funny Tracy-Hepburn exchanges. "My name is Richard Sumner". "Well, numerologically that's very good, there are thirteen letters in your name". "You calculate rapidly". "Up to thirteen anyway". Later Tracy tests her. "A train started out at Grand Central, with seventeen passengers aboard and a crew of nine. At 125th Street, four got off and nine got on. At White Plains, three got off and one got on. At Chappaqua, nine got off and four got on. And at each successive stop thereafter nobody got off, nobody got on till the train reached its next-to-the-last stop, where five people got off and one got on. Then it reached the terminal." "Well that's easy, eleven passengers and a crew of nine." "Uh, that's not the question." "I'm sorry." "How many people got off at Chappaqua?" "Nine." "That's correct." "Yes, I know." Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Devil Girl From Mars (1954) IMDB * Nyah describes to Professor Hennessey the ultimate weapon: the perpetual motion chain reactor beam. "As fast as matter was created, it was changed by its molecular structure into the next dimension, and so destroyed itself." "So there is a fourth dimension!"
The Devil Thumbs a Ride (1947) IMDB ** A bunch of (accurate) poker odds in one scene: "It was a hobby of my maths professor: sort of taught me the percentages".
The Devil's Wanton (Fängelse) (1949) IMDB * Ingmar Bergman movie with a maths teacher, but no maths.
Diabolique (1996) IMDB * Sharon Stone as a maths teacher, doing simple algebra in class.
Les Diaboliques (1955) IMDB ** Original version of the Sharon Stone movie. One of the main characters is a maths teacher. Extended scene dedicated to a boy finding the area of a regular hexagon in terms of the radius of the circumcircle.
Diamonds are Forever (1971) IMDB * James Bond commenting that smuggling 50000 carats worth of diamonds at 142 carats an ounce won't be easy.
Dick Tracy (1990) IMDB ** Madonna singing a mathematical song: "Count your blessings, one, two, three. I just hate keeping score. Any number is fine with me. As long as it's more. As long as it's more! I'm no mathematician, all I know is addition. I find counting a bore. Keep the number mounting, your accountant does the counting ..."
The Dish (2000) IMDB * A few equations after the controllers of the Parkes radio telescope lose track of Apollo 11.
Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995) IMDB **** Bruce Willis and Samuel Jackson need to solve a jug problem in 30 seconds to defuse a bomb: using a 5 gallon jug a 3 gallon jug and a water fountain, fill the 5 gallon jug with 4 gallons. They also have to the famous chestnut: "As I was going to St Ives I met a man with seven wives. Every wife had seven sacks, every sack had seven cats. Every cat had seven kittens. Kittens, cats, sacks and wives, how many were going to St Ives?" Clips on Oliver Knill's page.
A Dog Called Vengeance (El Perro) (1976) IMDB ** Incomprehensible low budget political horror movie. The main character is The Professor, a mathematician who escapes from prison and is then pursued by a demon dog. The Professor mumbles about square roots at times, for no discernible reason.
Donald in Mathmagicland (1959) IMDB ***** This movie is for mathematics what Disney's Fantasia is for classical music. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
The Dot and the Line (1965) IMDB *** Engaging animated story of the love between a dot and a line.
$$$ The Double (2013) IMDB ** A short, funny scene supposedly using statistical inference to rule out or determine the identity of a murderer.
Doubt (2008) IMDB ** The writing out of multiplication tables is assigned as punishment (by the enlightened nun!). And a test is coming: "Is it long division?" "Among other things" "How much of it will be long division?"
The Draughtsman's Contract (1982) IMDB * "Drawing is an attribution worth very little, and in England worth nothing at all. If you must scribble, I suggest that your time would be better spent in studying mathematics."
Drawing Down the Moon (1997) IMDB *** Crazy Z-grade movie, with a margarita-swilling mathematician as the bad guy and a flaky witch as the good guy. A few fractals appear, for reasons which are hard to discern.
Drowning by Numbers (1988) IMDB ** Movie by Peter Greenaway. Girl counting from 1 to 100 while jumping rope. She is actually counting stars and stops at 100 because "once you've counted 100 all the other hundreds are the same." Signs counting from 1 to 100 appear throughout the movie. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Duck Soup (1933) IMDB * Groucho and Chico have a Marxian mathematical exchange: "Give me a number from 1 to 10". "11". "Right".
Dumbo (1941) IMDB *** Dumbo blows a cubical bubble. Discussion of the proportionality of the height of Dumbo's jumps, and the amount people laugh.
The Edge (1997) IMDB * Robert explains the value of having a watch with two faces: "If I'm in L.A. and I want to know the time in New York, I don't have to go through the anguish of adding 3".
El Efecto Mariposa (The Butterfly Effect) (1995) IMDB * Some probability talk, and a blackboard of equations in an economics lecture.
Einstein: Light to the Power of 2 (1996) (TV) IMDB ** In 50's America, a young black girl gets Einstein to help her with her maths homework. Intended for schoolchildren.
The Englishman Who Went up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain (1995) IMDB ** Villagers are trying to raise their hill by 20 feet so it will officially be a mountain. Having piled up earth to raise the height 14 feet, the pastor declares they've broken the back of the problem. He is corrected by a villager, who apparently realizes that if it keeps its shape, the volume of a cone does not depend linearly on its height.
Enigma (2001) IMDB ** This movie is about Bletchley Park and the Enigma machine. The main character is modeled after Alan Turing, but not much maths. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (Jeder Für Sich und Gott Gegen Alle) (1974) IMDB *** A pompous professor presents Kaspar Hauser with a misformed version of the Liar Puzzle: given one question, how do you tell whether a person is a truthteller or a liar? Kaspar's simple and hilarious solution is to ask the person if they are a tree-frog. The professor is not amused.
Entrapment (1999) IMDB ** Catherine Zeta-Jones says she wants a security clock to loose 10 seconds. She then rigs it to loose 1/10 of a second each minute, for an hour.
Eustice Solves a Problem (2004) ***** A terrific short film, set around a children's quiz program in 1958.
Évariste Galois (1965) IMDB **** The romanticized story of the night before Évariste Galois's famous duel.
Event Horizon (1997) IMDB ** Contains a nice scene in which a scientist folds a piece of paper to explain how bending space enables the spaceship Event Horizon to move faster than light.
Evil Roy Slade (1972) IMDB *** "Let's try some arithmetic: If you had six apples and your neighbor took three of them what would you have?" "A dead neighbor and all six apples." Clip on our maths clips page.
Eyes Wide Shut (1999) IMDB ** Carl is a mathematics professor, who appears for about three seconds. No maths.
Fahrenheit 451 (1966) IMDB ** In a regimented futuristic world, schoolchildren drone the nine times table (up to nine twenties). Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Fail-Safe (1964) IMDB ** Walter Matthau as a psychopath game theorist is quizzed at a dinner party. "Two hours ago you said a hundred million dead, now you say sixty million." "I say sixty million is perhaps the highest price we should be prepared to pay in a war." "What's the difference between sixty million dead, and a hundred million?" "Forty million."
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) IMDB * 35 + 36 + 37 = 108 snipers, and the game whack bat involves dividing by 9.
$$$ The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006) IMDB * A couple maths class scenes, including a very quick y-intercept blooper.
The Favor (1994) IMDB **** Fun romantic comedy with a mathematician as the husband (and Brad Pitt as the "favor"). Very funny scene of the mathematician's wife trying to seduce him as he rabbits on about nonlinear dynamics. Clips on our maths clips page.
Fermat's Last Tango (2001) IMDB ***** Terrific musical about Fermat's last theorem, featuring Andrew Wiles, Pythagoras, Gauss, Euclid, Newton, and a deliciously vain Pierre de Fermat.
Fermat's Room (La Habitación de Fermat) (2007) IMDB ***** Four mathematicians are trapped in a shrinking room that can only be stopped from shrinking by solving a number of puzzles. The Goldbach conjecture plays a major role. Clip on Oliver Knill's page
A Few Days in September (Quelques Jours En Septembre) (2007) IMDB * Orlando and David are siblings who continually fight over the cutting of dessert in "half". Eventually they hit upon the strategy of one person cutting and the other person choosing.
Fight Club (1999) IMDB * "Take the number of vehicles in the field, A, multiply it by the probable rate of failure, B, then multiply the result by the average out of court settlement, C. A times B times C equals X. If X is less than the cost of a recall, we don't do one." "Which car company do you work for?"
Firetrap (2001) IMDB * An isolated scene containing a whiteboard with differential equations.
5ive Days to Midnight (2004) (TV) IMDB ** A physics professor receives a briefcase from the future, containing the report of his death. His PhD student tries to help by doing some mathematics of string theory.
First Circle (1992) (TV) IMDB ** One of the main characters is a mathematician in a special Soviet prison for scientists.
Flash Gordon (1980) IMDB *** Dr Zarkov saves the day by guessing the code of the elevator to be "one of the prime numbers of the Zeeman series".
Flatland (1965) IMDB **** A nice animated adaptation of Edwin Abbot's famous book about a two-dimensional world. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Flatland (Flatlandia) (1982) IMDB **** Michele Emmer's claymation adaptation of Edwin Abbot's famous book about a two-dimensional world.
Flatland (2007) IMDB **** Tedious adaptation of Edwin Abbot's classic.
Flatland: The Movie (2007) IMDB ***** State of the art animated adaptation of Edwin Abbot's classic Flatland. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Fletch Lives (1989) IMDB * A little funny dialogue with a character named Calculus Entropy.
The Flight That Disappeared (1961) IMDB ** Crazy movie about a mathematician and scientists being tried before a celestial court.
Flubber (1997) IMDB *** Robin Williams as Professor Phillip Brainard stumbles into a life drawing class and begins lecturing about gravity. Great improvisation involving the nude models and a dead pheasant.
For a Few Dollars More (1965) IMDB *** Lee Van Cleef is riding off as Clint Eastwood surveys the bodies of the outlaws, tallying the bounty. Realising it doesn't add up, he wheels around and shoots the remaining outlaw. "Any trouble, Boy?" "No, old man. Thought I was having trouble with my adding. It's alright now." Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Forbidden Planet (1956) IMDB *** Dr. Morbius has mastered the language of an extinct civilization. At one point he illustrates very nicely their immense power resources, showing off a huge exponentially calibrated sequence of meters.
Force of Evil (1948) IMDB ** Gangster movie featuring an accountant called Two and Two, who's great at mental arithmetic.
Freaky Friday (2003) IMDB *** Jamie Lee Curtis is caught in her daughter Anna's, Lindsay Lohan's, body. She's reading a maths exam question to herself: "The sum of the areas of the shaded regions above in terms of D is equal to (a) D squared times the sum of pi divided by 4 minus D divided by 2, (b) D squared times the sum of pi cubed divided by D minus 2. Now, what is pi again? 3 point something? Oh this is ridiculous, I've never used pi. Anna's never gonna use pi. Why's it called pi anyway? OK, focus ... Or (c) D cubed minus the sum of pi squared minus ..." Clip on our maths clips page
Freedom Man (1989) (TV) *** The story of Benjamin Banneker, the black American mathematician (more astronomer and engineer) from the 18th Century. It ends with a wonderful voiceover: "My whole life has been a mathematical proof of what a black man can do. I've been a clockmaker, a farmer, an astronomer, a surveyor, an almanac writer, a mathematician. ... And I add this, and this. And I hope the sum proves something to the World."
Frozen (2013) IMDB
One of the many tedious songs contains the lines
My power flurries through the air into the ground
My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around
La Frontera (1991) IMDB * A maths teacher gets involved in the political violence of Chile.
The Full Monty (1997) IMDB ** Gaz and his mates are contemplating how much they would make by stripping. "How many lasses were there, though?" "Thousands, baying for blood. Ten quid and all to watch some fucking poof get his kit off! Ten quid!" "Right. Times ten quid by a thousand, right? And you've got ... yeah well, a lot. A very lot." Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
$$$ A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966) IMDB ** A couple of pretty funny one-liners.
G.I. Joe: The Rise of the Cobra (2009) IMDB ** The Joes do "spherical trigonometry", a version of the Eratosthenes trick. They have a photo of the villain and they know when the photo was taken. The triangle made by the villain and his shadow supposedly allows them to determine where the villain is. Nice trick, though it actually only narrows down the villain's location to within a circle on the surface of the Earth. Clip on Oliver Knill's page
Galileo (1975) IMDB ** Bertolt Brecht's play of Galileo (yay!) versus the Catholich Church (boo!). No mathematics, but we do have "these worms of mathematicians ... turn their tubes upon the sky". Pope Urban VIII declares "I will not set up myself against the multiplication table", then does just that.
The Gambler (1974) IMDB ** 2+2=5 is used as a metaphor for the gambler's belief that he can overcome the odds.
George of the Jungle (1997) IMDB * Before swinging to the rescue of a parachutist entangled in the cables of the Golden Gate Bridge, George calculates the angle and velocity of his swing.
Ghost of a Chance (Aionios Foititis) (2001) IMDB * "I'm bored." "Do some multiplication to pass the time. What's 410 times 20?" "1821."
Gokusen: The Movie (2009) IMDB * Kumiko, the yakuza maths teacher, is back in a movie version of the TV series. No maths.
The Giant Claw (1957) IMDB *** Sally Caldwell is "Mademoiselle Mathematician", helping to defeat a murderous chicken from outer space. There's some funny romantic maths banter with the hero, and some improbable spiral interpolation to help predict the chicken's path.Clip on our maths clips page.
The Girl Next Door (2004) IMDB ** The hero is a high school scholar whose plans get derailed. Various scenes with snapshots of exams and maths texts.
The Glass Bottom Boat (1966) IMDB * Rod Taylor is a scientist, who recites some nonsense algebra in his pursuit of Doris Day: "COD plus XY to the second power plus OS, orbit shift, equals Mars and Venus joined." "Amazing sir. Do you think the World's ready for this?"
Good Will Hunting (1997) IMDB ***** Movie about a maths prodigy, with tons of mathematics. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
$$$ Good Morning Boys (1937) IMDB * A book called Newton's Law of Gravity appears, followed by some nonsensical phsyics equations.
$$$ Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939) IMDB ** A great one-liner: "Enough of your loathsome statistics, Woman!"
$$$ Goodbye to Language (Adieu au Language) (2014) IMDB ** Some clumsy and pretentious references to the Dirac delta function, and to Bernard Riemann and the zeroes of the zeta function.
Gorath (Yosei Gorasu) (1962) IMDB * Weird sci-fi movie, where the Earth is moved to avoid a massive meteor. A few PDE's in one scene.
The Grand (2007) IMDB ** Very funny fake documentary about a $10 million poker tournament. It includes a seemingly clueless maths teacher, and an autistic guy who constantly rattles on about pot odds. There's also an hilariously dumb TV commentator, teased by his co-commentator. "Think about what this buys, Phil. It's three luxury homes, it's ten or fifteen sports cars, that's countless items of jewellery." "And how many speedboats?" "Speedboats, um, that would, uh, it would depend on the speedboat". "$500,000 speedboat". "Do the maths. You can probably do it on the back of an envelope". "Off the top of your head". "It's uh ... that's ... it's, it's eleven". "Twenty. The answer is twenty". "Well, maybe I was thinking of a different kind of speedboat." "Or, maybe you're just a fucking idiot".
Gravesend (1997) IMDB ** "I ain't fuckin' stupid! You think I'm fuckin' stupid? You give me any fuckin' maths problem, any fuckin' maths problem! I'll solve it right here, motherfucker!" As it happens, 2X + 12 = 39 is beyond him.
Graveyard Disturbance (Una Notte al Cimitero Una) (1987) IMDB *** Some teenagers are trying to escape from a cemetery that loops in on itself in an impossible way. They discuss it rather weirdly, in terms of Escher and non-Euclidean geometry.
The Great Man Votes (1939) IMDB * Gregory is to be taken on a long parade to lodge his vote at the voting booth a few feet away. He objects that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points.
Gulliver's Travels (1996) (TV) IMDB ** Archimedes, wearing a bath towel, runs around shouting "Eureka!".
H. P. Lovecraft's Dreams in the Witchhouse (2005) (TV) IMDB *** A physics grad student rents a room in a very creepy house. He decides that the source of the evil is a strange, non-Euclidean corner of his room.
Hands of a Murderer (1990) (TV) IMDB ** The battle between Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty is partially framed in terms of mathematics and codes. In the end, the key to the code involves no real mathematics.
The Hangover (2009) IMDB ** Alan counts cards at blackjack, and we see maths equations floating through his mind. Almost none of the equations have anything to do with blackjack. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Hans Christian Andersen (1952) IMDB *** Danny Kaye as the charming storyteller, teaching arithmetic: "A 2 met a 4 one day. They liked each other immediately and they danced away and got married, and all the other numbers came to their wedding". This is contrasted with drone-singing of arithmetic facts in the classroom.
The Happening (2008) IMDB ** "It's good to be a maths teacher sometimes. People are comforted by percentages". Julian's next attempt at math-comforting involves asking a screaming woman how much she would have after a month if she received a penny the first day, 2 pennies the second day, 4 pennies the third day and so on. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Harold & Kumar Escape From Gauntanamo Bay (2008)
*** Kumar is writing a love poem called The square root of 3, when he is interrupted by Vanessa struggling
with her "fucking calculus final". Kumar helps her with a double integral. Later, Kumar
read his poem:
I fear that I will always be a lonely number, like root 3.
A 3 is all that's good and right. Why must my 3 keep out of sight
Beneath a vicious square root sign? I wish instead I were a 9.
For 9 could thwart this evil trick with just some quick arithmetic.
I know I'll never see the sun as 1.7321.
Such is my reality, a sad irrationality.
When Hark!, what is this I see? Another square root of a three
Has quietly come waltzing by. Together now we multiply
To form a number we prefer, rejoicing as an integer.
We break free from our mortal bonds, and with a wave of magic wands
Our square root signs become unglued, and love for me has been renewed. Clip on Oliver Knill's page
Hauser's Memory (1970) (TV) IMDB ** Hauser is a dying phsycisist, whose memories are implanted in Hillel, so that Hillel can recall Hauser's knowledge of weapons research: "F is expressed as a second order partial differential, with a peculiar symmetrical exponetial function below zero." Alas, Hillel cannot remember what F stands for. There's also a couple of spies carrying around a text on class field theory: it's not stated, but perhaps Huauser is supposed to have invented a Prime Number Missile.
Here Come the Co-eds (1945) IMDB ** Lou Costello and Peggy Ryan have some funny lines in a patter song. "Let's play school. Let's start out with subtraction, you'll get plenty of action!" "I think figures have such an attraction! Let's play school."
Hercules (1997) IMDB *** Some funny scenes, with characters mistating quantities being even or odd.
$$$ Hidden Figures (2016) IMDB ***** Not the masterpiece it's declared to be, but a polished and reasonably accurate movie about the black women "computers", in particular Katherine Johnson, who worked for NASA in the 50s and 60s. More a movie about racism than mathematics (just as A Beautiful Mind was a movie about schizophrenia), but plenty of blackboards with orbital equations and (horrendous) numerical calculations. The mathematics that is discussed is extensively simplified, more along the lines of relevant buzzwords than an accurate portrayal of the mechanics NASA had to come to terms with.
High and Low (Tengoku To Jigoku) (1963) IMDB ** Percentages of holdings in a company are calculated to see who has control. A 300 million yen ransom is demanded in specific denominations. The cops calculate how long it would take to mark the notes.
High School Musical (TV) (2006) IMDB *** The (high school!) teacher is writing up two of Ramanujan's formulas for 1/π, Pochhammer symbols and all. Vanessa immediately spots an error in the second equation, where the teacher has written 8/π instead of 16/π.
A Hill on the Dark Side of the Moon (Berget På Månens Baksida) (1983) IMDB **** Dark movie about the mathematician Sonja Kovalevskaya, featuring some lecture theatre scenes. The mathematicians Weierstrass and Mittag-Leffler make brief appearances.
Hit Me (1996) IMDB ** A low budget movie in the vein of 21 and The Last Casino. Sonny is hired as a blackjack player because he has "a Masters in advanced mathematics". As part of the testing he has to figure out 42/73; God knows why, but in any case he gets it wrong.
Homage (1995) IMDB *** A brilliant young mathematician, with job offers from Princeton, is infatuated with a young actress. He becomes her mother's housekeeper.
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989) IMDB * Some whiteboards filled with maths plus a few formulas viewed through a looking glass.
Hot for Teacher (Nuga Geunyeo-Wa Jasseulkka?) (2006) IMDB ** 'Slanted Eyes', a sadistic maths teacher, sees his students distracted by the new, sexy teacher. One crazy scene of a student calculating logarithms, while others are forced to cling to the blackboard.
Hotel Hilbert (1996) IMDB **** A brilliant bringing to life of David Hilbert's idea of an infinite hotel. Packed full of references to properties and paradoxes of the infinite, all done with great atmosphere and a great sense of fun. .
How Green Was My Valley (1941) IMDB *** Huw and his father and tutor are puzzling over a word problem. "Now then. The bathtub holds 100 gallons. A fills it at 20 gallons a minute, and B at the rate of 10 gallons a minute... Now then, C is a hole that empties it at 5 gallons a minute. How long, um, to fill the tub?" Huw's mothers just laughs: "Who would pour water into a bathtub full of holes?" Clip on Oliver Knill's page
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003) IMDB * At the basketball game, the scoreboard indicates the Knicks have a score of 93, but the player totals add to 94.
The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) IMDB ** The circle is used throughout as a symbol of elegance and simplicity. Clip on our maths clips page.
I Killed Einstein, Gentlemen (Zabil Jsem Einsteina, Panove) IMDB (1970) ** Crazy sci-fi movie with people going back in time to kill Einstein. Some Lorentz equations and a little weird quizzing with arithmetic. "At first we calculated that M equals rho 2P over 2, R over 3..." "But it seemed that the universe was crooked."
I Not Stupid (Xiaohai Bu Ben) IMDB (2002) * Some students in a dead end class are inspired by their teacher: "... I hated maths. But the more I hated it the worse it got. Then I decided to spend time to know it better, and to be friends with it ...
I Walked With a Zombie (1943) IMDB * A woman and a man are sitting in a cafe. Man to waiter: "Better bring me another, I have to keep the lady entertained." "Must be hard work entertaining me that requires six ounces of rum." "Six ounces?" "Higher mathematics. Two ounces to a drink, three drinks, six ounces."
I Went Down (1997) IMDB *** A kidnap victim is strapped to a bed. When he drops the TV remote, he is forced to watch some program about the fundamental theorem of algebra, presented by stereotypically boring mathematicians.
I.Q. (1994) IMDB **** Meg Ryan and Tim Robbins give a romantic resolution to Zeno's paradox. Also, there's mathematical sign language, puzzles, Albert Einstein and the logician Kurt Gödel. Clip on our maths clips page.
I'm Gonna Git You Sucka (1988) IMDB ** Chris Rock has a funny bit, where he's told a serving of five ribs cost $2.50, and he figures he can order one rib for 50 cents.
Ice Princess (2005) IMDB *** Michelle Trachtenberg plays a physics wiz who analyzes ice skating as an honours project, helping her fellow skaters. Lots of brief references to centripetal acceleration, angular momentum and the like.
The Ice Storm (1997) IMDB *** A kid explains, with some reason, that he's not good at maths, just good at geometry: "It's like, you know when they say 'two squared'? You think it means 2 times 2 equals 4. But really, they really mean a square. It's really space, it's not numbers it's space. And it's perfect space, but only in your head, because you can't draw a perfect square in the material world. But in your mind, you can have perfect space. You know?" Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Idiocracy (2006) IMDB *** An average Joe from today wakes up in the future and finds himself the most intelligent man on Earth. He is forced to take an IQ test: "If you have one bucket that holds 2 gallons, and another bucket that holds 5 gallons, how many buckets do you have?" Clip on our maths clips page.
Imperativ (1982) IMDB **** Dark movie about a suicidal maths professor. He specializes in probability theory, and one of his students works out a system to win at roulette.
In July (2000) IMDB *** Daniel is a shy fellow training to be a maths teacher. He gives a painful lesson on projectile motion. Later he tries it with a real car, to cross a 25 meter river at a 10 degree incline. He correctly calculates the necessary speed to be about 96 kilometers per hour, but seemingly underestimated the width of the river. Clip on our maths clips page. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
The Infinite Worlds of H. G. Wells (2001) (TV) IMDB **** The Pyecraft episode in this miniseries is a fun fantasy about a gentle mathematician.
Infinity (1996) IMDB **** Movie about Richard Feynman featuring the Möbius strip, an abacus, and an explanation of infinity. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
An Innocent Love (1982) (TV) IMDB ** A young boy tutors a school senior in calculus (differentiating polynomials).
Insignificance (1985) IMDB *** Albert Einstein and Marilyn Monroe have an exchange of ideas. Marilyn demonstrates the Theory of Relativity using toy trains and flash lights. Albert explains (not quite correctly) the shape of the universe as a 3-dimensional sphere.
Inspector Lewis (2006) (TV) IMDB **** The Goldbach Conjecture and a Fields medalist are at the center of a murder mystery.
In the Navy (1941) IMDB ***** Just one scene: the famous and hilarious routine in which Costello proves 7x13=28 in three different ways.
Intacto (2001) IMDB * Weird gambling movie, with people stealing others' luck. A little probability and arithmetic. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
The Intruder (1999) IMDB *** It appears that a murdered woman is coming back to kill people. Charlie the mathematician thinks the explanation is some quantum mechanical thing about time looping back on itself. His theory is illustrated with an impressive blackboard of cylinders and cones.
The Invisible Boy (1957) IMDB ** Dr. Merrinoe works at the Stoneman Institute of Mathematics. When he's not playing with a supercomputer, he's asking his son Timmie painful questions on fractions: "how many twenty-fourths are there in one and a quarter?" "Three? Seventeen. Forty-four? A hundred?"
$$$ An Invisible Sign (2010) IMDB ** Any movie with Jessica Alba as a maths nut can't be all bad, those this is pretty close. She plays a loner, who uses numbers as a crutch, and as a symbol of not being part of the world. A few classroom scenes, with simple arithmetic and Fibonacci numbers.
Iron Man 2 (2010) IMDB * Tony Stark ponders his father's equations while redesigning his iron suit. There's also a picture of a tesseract.
Ishtar (1987) IMDB ** Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty are offered a gig in Honduras. "How much?" "150 Lempiras a week. That's 75 dollars in American money ...". "That's only 37.50 a week for each of us!" "Heyyyy, that's right! You got a good head for figures".
The Island (2005) IMDB ** In a futuristic world, the immigrants to the paradise Island are determined by a supposedly random lottery. Jones Three Echo correctly suspects otherwise. He unsuccessfully tries to figure out the formula underlying the lottery. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
It's a Big Country (1951) IMDB ** The teacher asks Joseph to divide 8 into 240 , but he can't because "the numbers are too small". It turns out he needs glasses.
It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963) IMDB *** 8 people in 4 groups with 5 leaders try to decide the fair way to divide the $350 000 they're hunting for. They decide to create 25 shares of $14 000 each, which keeps everyone happy for about two minutes. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
It's My Turn (1980) IMDB ***** Light romantic movie about a female mathematician. Famous among mathematicians because the full proof of the Snake Lemma is given in the first scene. Tons of mathematics and mathspotting on blackboards.
Izo (2004) IMDB *** An angry samurai ghost charges around on a Möbius strip.
Jam Films 2 − Armchair Theory (2004) IMDB **** In a fantasy sequence we see one Japanese warrior shoot an arrow at another warrior who is running away, illustrating one of Zeno's paradoxes: When the arrow has reached the point at which the second warrior was when the arrow was fired he has already moved to a second point. When the arrow reaches that point he has moved to a third point, etc.
Jan Amos Comenius (Putování Jana Amose) (1983) IMDB ** René Descartes makes a very brief appearance. No speaking lines.
Jane Eyre (2006) IMDB * A couple little maths bits when Jane Eyre is acting as governess. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Jason X (2001) IMDB ** A cute android named Kay-Em calculates the probability of the team's survival at 12%. After Tsunaron kisses her, she calculates the odds at 53%. He suggests they try for 100%.
Jimtown Speakeasy (1928) **** A very early and very obscure short, with Flournoy Miller and Aubrey Lyles performing the earliest filmed version of Abbott and Costello's (?) 7 x 13 routine. Miller and Lyles perform it in the form 3 x 17 = 24. It is probable that they invented and performed the routine much earlier, as part of their vaudeville shows. it is claimed that they performed the routine (in 7 x 13 form) in the 1921 Broadway musical Shuffle Along, though we haven't been able to confirm this.
$$$ Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser (2015) IMDB * A 1-liner about 7 x 7 = 77.
Julie Johnson (2001) IMDB **** Julie Johnson is a downtrodden white trash housewife who turns out to be a mathematical genius. Tedious and humorless, but lots of maths, mostly chaos theory. Mischa Baton plays the daughter. She has the Cantor Set explained to her, and is less than impressed. Clip on our maths clips page.
Jurassic Park (1993) IMDB *** Jeff Goldblum as a cool mathematician. He impresses a woman with an explanation of chaos theory by conducting a little experiment on her hand that illustrates the butterfly effect. Clips on Oliver Knill's page.
Jurassic Park 2 (The Lost World) (1997) IMDB ** Jeff Goldblum is back as the cool mathematician. No maths this time.
Jurassic Park III (2001) IMDB * Jeff Goldblum does not appear this time, but he and his book on chaos theory are made fun of.
The Karate Kid, Part II (1986) IMDB ** The karate kid discovers that a market stall is using a disguised light weight with their scales, supposedly in order to cheat the farmers of their produce. In fact, using such a weight would benefit the farmers.
The Keeper: The Legend of Omar Khayyam (2005) IMDB **** Movie about the life of the mathematician Omar Khayyam and one of his descendents. More romance than maths, but there are some good scenes.
$$$ The King's Thief (1955) IMDB ** Sir Isaac Newton makes a brief appearance, to demonstrate his new telescope.
Kelly's Heroes (1970) IMDB ** A soldier is praised for calculating (incorrectly) in his head: 125 boxes at $8400 a box = $10 500 000.
Kes (1969) IMDB * Some simple maths in a classroom setting.
The Knack ... and How to Get It (1965) IMDB * Michael Crawford as a girl-shy mathematics teacher in swinging London. One classroom scene, with the students reciting the laws of reflection and refraction. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Knocked Up (2007) IMDB ** 10 years ago Ben got $14000, and he has $900 left. "So that should last me for like ... I mean I'm not a mathematician, but like another 2 years, or some shit, I think." He's out by 16 months.
Knowing (2009) IMDB * Painful apocalypse movie, with a few equations and numerology and the like.
Kronos (1957) IMDB * Silly sci-fi movie with a bit of nonsensical mathtalk.
Kuriton Sukupolvi (1957) IMDB ** A maths professor arises from his years of work into the era of rock and roll. No maths.
L: Change the World (2008) IMDB *** L tries to save the world from terrorists with a killer virus. A little boy, a survivor of the virus, turns out to be a mathematical genius. He is discovered drawing magic squares on a wall, and supposedly arranges Fibonacci numbers with marshmallows (though the pattern is unclear). Later he solves a complicated geometry problem, the key to a critical code.
Labyrinth (1986) IMDB *** Fun fantasy version of the Liar Puzzle in action: deciding which of two doors to choose when one is guarded by a truthteller and one by a liar. Plus, the musician David Bowie as the king of the goblins running around a maze inspired by Escher's drawing Relativity.
Lambada (1990) IMDB ***** Stand and Deliver with dirty dancing. Blade is a supercool maths teacher who inspires his students. Most memorable cheesy scene: Blade demonstrates the usefulness of maths by making a near impossible three-cushion (pool) shot using "the rectangular coordinate system" and a protractor.
The Land of College Prophets (2005) IMDB * Rye is a philosophizing thug who is apparently good at mathematics. He helps his professor friend, something about stopping rabbits from exploding. Don't ask us.
Las Vegas Shakedown (1955) IMDB ** A maths teacher travels to Las Vegas to do research for her book, which is supposed to show that the casinos always win (well, duh). Some humorous lines about a companion's gambling system.
Las Vegas Weekend (1986) IMDB *** Crazy B-grade comedy about a mathematician with a scheme to beat blackjack. Some weird and humorous lines about infinity and probability.
The Last Casino (2004) IMDB ** Same plot as 21, and a much better movie: A math professor organizers some students into a blackjack team. It includes a very funny scene, where the professor tests a waitress's memory by ordering a complicated pizza with mutliple toppings, substitutions and a rotation. (She gets it right). One of the students memorizes digits of π for fun.
The Last Enemy (2008) IMDB *** Dr. Stephen Izard is the mathematician hero of this brave new worldish miniseries. The only maths is in the first episode, where Stephen explains his research to Andrew and Brian, owners of the company Inquirendo: "... let Ric be the Ricci curvature, and the gammas are the Christoffel symbols. The idea is to show that under the Ricci flow, positive curvature tends to spread outwards, uh, until at infinite time, the manifold will achieve constant curvature. Now let us consider a generalization of this, the form F is a nice, smooth function. Even in this state the flow will develop singularities in finite time. But, by using a local version of the Gromov compactness theorem, I've been able to get a model of all possible singularities ..." This is actually real mathematics, underlying Perelman's proof of the Poincaré conjecture. Andrew tries to explain the importance of Stephen's reasarch to Brian, a non-mathematician, that it has to do with "topology ... rubber sheet geometry" and "the shape of the Universe". Brian doesn't follow very well: "I thought it had something to do with killer bees". Clip on Oliver Knill's page
$$$ The Last Mimzy (2007) IMDB * A bit of sleep talk about octahedra and tesseracts, but no real maths.
Last Year at Marienbad (L'Année dernière à Marienbad) (1961) IMDB *** Pretentious movie using the mathematical game of Nim in a pretentious and absurd manner. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Late Bloomers (1996) IMDB *** Excrutiating lesbian chick flick. Miss Groshardt (sheesh!) is a maths teacher who has an affair with Mrs. Lumpkin (another sheesh!), the wife of a fellow maths teacher. Includes some algebra, a proof of Pythagoras's theorem, and the exclamation "she's aardvarking with the Hypotenuse".
Life of Pi (2012) IMDB *** Piscine Patel is teased about his name. He remembers thousands of digits of pi, so that students will accept his nickname of Pi. A subtle blooper: the blackboard scene contains thousands of correct digits of Pi, but the expansion in the book being used to check the digits doesn't extend far enough.
Life is Beautiful (La Vita è Bella) (1997) IMDB *** During WWII the local Nazis in an Italian town are having the following conversation at a formal dinner. The primary school principal: "And I am not talking about Berlin, the countryside, 3rd grade. Listen to this one. Really, it's quite shocking. The problem: Supporting a lunatic costs the state 4 marks a day, supporting a cripple costs 4 1/2 marks, an epileptic 3 1/2 marks. Figuring the average is 4 marks a day and there are 300,000 of them, how much would the state save if these individuals were simply eliminated?" "Completely unbelievable!" "That is exactly how I reacted." "Completely unbelievable. I can't believe an elementary school child is expected to solve something like this. It's a difficult calculation, the proportions, the percentages, they need some algebra to solve these equations, right? That would be highschool material for us." "No, no, it's just multiplication, what did you say it was, 300,000 cripples?" "Yes." "300,000 times four. We'd be saving about 1,200,000 marks a day if we killed them all. It's easy." "Exactly, bravo, but you are an adult. In Germany 7-year-olds are given this problem to work out. The most amazing race indeed."
Like Mike (2002) IMDB ** Calvin gets help with his geometry homework from the basketballer Tracy. Tracy paints huge triangles on his house, with the vertices labeled as Dennis Rodman and The Shaq and so on. Clip on Oliver Knill's page
$$$ Limitless (2011) IMDB * A pretty silly movie, about a pill that unlocks the possibilities of the human intellect. A couple of one-liners about algorithms to win on the stock market, and math finally being fun and useful, to win at poker.
Little Big League (1994) IMDB **** Contains a hilarious scene, where the Minnesota Twins baseball team is trying to solve their teenage manager's homework: If Joe can paint a house in 3 hours and Sam can paint it in 5 hours, how long does it take for them to do it together? Clip on our maths clips page. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Little Giant (1946) IMDB **** Abbott and Costello do their terrific 7 x 13 = 28 routine. Not quite as good as the original.
Little Man Tate (1991) IMDB **** A movie featuring two mathematical prodigies. Lots of maths: maths competitions, building tensegrity icosahedra, etc.
The Lost Angel (2004) IMDB * A serial murderer leaves clues in the form of Babylonian cuneiform script. The plan is to kill 20 people to complete a satanic ritual. Right next to victim number four we see the numbers 4 and 16 in cuneiform script written in blood (4 done, 16 to go).
Lost Souls (2000) IMDB ** Possessed man keeps writing numbers, the name of the anti-Christ in code.
Love and Death (1975) IMDB *** Woody Allen movie with a couple funny maths bits, e.g. designing blintzes with geometry on a blackboard.
Love Me if You Dare (Jeux d'Enfants) (2003) IMDB *** The 7 times multiplication tables gets yelled out for no discernible reason. Also some discriminants, and some dirty maths talk: "Your vector is defined by an origin, but above all by size ...".
Lucky Pierre (La Moutarde Me Monte Au Nez) (1974) IMDB *** Pierre Richard as a frazzled maths teacher, including some hilarious classroom slapstick: all in French, but it doesn't matter. Clip on our maths clips page.
Ma and Pa Kettle Back on the Farm (1951) IMDB *** Ma and Pa Kettle's version of the famous Abbott and Costello routine. They show in three different ways that 5 x 14 = 25. Not as good as the Abbott and Costello versions. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Madame Curie (1943) IMDB ** Madame Curie asks her future husband a mathematical question about symmetries.
Magic Town (1947) IMDB ** Somebody locates the ideal town for polling: its population thinks exactly like America as a whole.
Magik and Rose (1999) IMDB *** A square dance caller and snails egg farmer also turns out to be a maths wiz, who knows everything about fractals and chaos theory.
Malcolm X (1992) IMDB * Malcolm X explains his name, using X as the mathematical symbol of the unknown.
A Man Called Intrepid (1979) (TV) IMDB * Two characters talk about the Enigma machine.
The Man From Planet X (1951) IMDB ** Geometry is suggested as the way to communicate with an alien.
The Manhattan Project (1986) IMDB ** A scientist and a juvenile bomb maker are trying to figure out how much time they have left to defuse a bomb.
Man of the House (2005) IMDB * Cheerleaders get into geomtric formation so that a girl on top of a bus can jump into their arms. When she hesitates, one of the cheerleaders yells out "I'm a math major".
Manolito Gafotas (1999) IMDB ** Manolito fails a maths test for the first time and is comforted by his father: "Cervantes, Einstein, Karl Marx, Jules Verne. All geinuses, but don't think they were good at maths." "What did their mothers say?" "They understood in the end." Later, Moanolito has to study over the summer. Mostly his study seems to consist of him calculating how many hours left in the summer to study.
$$$ The Man who Knew Infinity (2015) IMDB **** Humourless and messagey telling of the story of the great Ramanujan and G. H. Hardy. The main mathematical thread of the movie centres on counting partitions. Of course, the 1729 taxi cab makes an appearance. Bertrand Russell and Littlewood are also prominent in the movie.
The Man Without a Face (1993) IMDB **** Mel Gibson as a scary maths teacher quizzes a boy on Pythagoras's Theorem, and teaches him a Euclidean theorem on how to find the centre of a circle: he goofs it!
Marius (1931) IMDB ** César teaches Marius how to mix a picon-citron-curacao: one very small third of curacao, one third of citron, a large third of picon, and, finally, a really large third of water. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Marriage Today (1950) IMDB * Phyllis does the maths in Chad's engineering work.
The Marva Collins Story (TV) (1981) IMDB ** Primary kids covert Shylock's ducats into gold into dollars. By contrast, apparently in public schools the Global Theatre is thought to be a three-sided octagon.
Matilda (1996) IMDB *** Little Matilda is a maths genius and has supernatural abilities. Some fun scenes.
The Matrix Revolutions (2003) IMDB *** Neo gets stuck in a train station, which loops around à la Pacman.
Meerabai Not Out (2008) IMDB ** Meera is a maths teacher and a cricket fanatic. So she teaches arithmetic with batting averages: "In the first four matches Dravid makes 36, 21, 34, 20 runs, so how many runs does he have to make in the next 4 innings to average 75 runs?". A student correctly answers 72.25 runs per innings.
Meet Dave (2008) IMDB *** Eddie Murphy is an alien who finds himself as a substitute teacher in front of a primary class. He decides to play safe and teach them something simple: the unified field theory.
Mean Girls (2004) IMDB **** A great movie for maths spotting on blackboards. The main character (Lindsay Lohan) is very good at maths. Encouraged by her teacher (Tina Fey) and against the advice of her friends ("social suicide"), she joins the school maths club and takes part in a maths competition. Clip on our maths clips page. Clips on Oliver Knill's page.
Mercury Rising (1998) IMDB * features an autistic boy who is a wiz at cracking codes.
Merry Andrew (1958) IMDB ***** Danny Kaye plays a maths teacher who teaches Pythagoras's Theorem by singing and dancing. Clip on our maths clips page. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Micmacs (2009) IMDB ** A weird band of characters includes a woman known as Calculette. She does mental calculations, including projectile motion for a human cannonball.
Mind Hunters (2004) IMDB ** A serial killer has written the number 582997924 over and over again in blood. One FBI member tries to decode it and another member reacts: "It's a number! It's a fucking number! They're all just fucking numbers!" It turns out that the digits cycled to 299792458 refers to the speed of light.
$$$ Mindwalk (1990) IMDB ** Incredibly tedious movie, with some philomathematical talk about understanding the Universe. Very brief references to Descartes, Kepler, Newton and Pythagoras.
The Mirror has Two Faces (Le Miroir à Deux Faces) (1958) IMDB ** Teacher asks: What is the smallest number with three digits? The student's answer of 000 is declared incorrect.
The Mirror has Two Faces (1996) IMDB ***** A romantic comedy about a maths professor who is dragged out of his shell. Tons of maths.
Miss Congeniality 2 (2005) IMDB * In one classroom scene there is a blackboard with multiplication problems.
Mission Impossible III (2006) IMDB * Tom Cruise does a little circular geometry, to plan his swing from one building to another Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Moebius (1996) IMDB *** A subway train goes missing in the subway network of Buenos Aires. A topologist is called in to investigate. He concludes that the new section is acting like a Möbius band (whatever that means).
Momo Alla Conquista Del Tempo (2001) IMDB ** Fun arithmetic scenes, some with shaving cream.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) IMDB *** Very strange logic is used to convict a woman of witchcraft. Clip on our maths clips page.
Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl (1982) IMDB *** While competing in the Germany vs. Greece football match, Archimedes has his Eureka moment: kick the ball. His team scores against the German goalkeeper: Leibniz. Also, the Pythons argue over what an argument is, and "René Descartes is a drunken fart" gets a mention in the Australian Philosphers' Song.
Morons from Outer Space (1985) IMDB ** A mathematician writes an incomplete equation to test one of the moron's mathematical abilities. "Now, Can you complete that?" " ... Can you?" "Of course." "Then what are you asking me for?"
Mortel Transfert (2001) IMDB * A frazzled maths teacher appears in one scene.
Mozart and the Whale (2005) IMDB ***** A charming romantic movie about two people with Asperger's syndrome, one with strong mathematical abilities. Some touching and funny scenes about mathematical literalism and primes, and factoring license plates.
Mr. Holland's Opus (1995) IMDB * "If I'm forced to choose between Mozart, and reading and writing and long division, I choose long division." Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Mr. Koumal Invents a Robot ** A short, amusing cartoon. Mr. Koumal's design involves a lot of work with protractor, ruler, π, arithmetic and so on.
Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium (2007) IMDB *** Dustin Hoffman as Mr. Magorium quizzes his pontential accountant (whom he dubs "Mutant"): "Name the Fibonacci series from its 11th to its 16th integer." "Uh, 89, 144, 233, 377, 610?" "Perfect! The number 4, do we really need it?". "If you like squares, you do." "Oh, I like squares!" Of course, Mutant actually only went up to the 15th Fibonacci "integer".
Mr. Wacky (Saeng, Nalseonsaeng) (2006) IMDB ** The lead character is blackmailed by his grandfather into being a maths teacher. One frenzied probability lecture, and a maths book gets torn up and scattered to the winds, but no real maths.
Münchhausen (1943) IMDB * Dürer's magic square appears in the background in one of the scenes.
Murder is Easy (1982) (TV) IMDB ** A mathematician helps solve a murder.
The Music of Chance (1993) IMDB ** Two guys win the lottery by choosing primes. Clip on our maths clips page.
My Little Chickadee (1940) IMDB ** Very funny 1-liner from W. C. Fields about whether poker is a game a chance: "Not the way I play it, no". Clip on our maths clips page.
My Boss, My Hero (2001) IMDB * A gangster goes back to high school to get his diploma. A couple quick bits of maths.
My Night With Maud (Ma Nuit Chez Maud) (1969) IMDB *** Three people discussing (amongst other things) probability and Pascal's wager.
My Stepmother is an Alien (1988) IMDB ** The alien stepmother (Kim Bassinger) says that she does maths on vacation, and graphs for fun.
My Teacher's Wife (1995) IMDB *** The teacher in question is a maths teacher, and his sexy wife (Tia Carrere) has a PhD in maths.
Ña Noniep (2009) IMDB ** A zero-budget movie from the Marshall Islands. Liki is a very bright student, who dreams of going to a good school in Arkansas(!), but is cast under an evil spell. His abilities and the loss of it are illustrated by his doing maths problems (mostly division).
The Naked Gun (1988) IMDB ** "What about Nordberg?" "He's alive, Frank, though he's on life support. Doctors say he's got a 50-50 chance of living. But there's only a 10% chance of that."
$$$ Nancy Drew (2007) IMDB ** A prim Nancy Drew confidently recites the quadratic formula.
National Lampoon's Senior Trip (1995) IMDB * A couple stray lines about maths nerds.
The Naughty Nineties (1945) IMDB *** Very funny routine, with Abbott guiding Costello in roulette. "I'll tell you what you do, you play the same numbers I play. I'll play number twenty and you play twenty too." "How can you do that?" "Why not?" "We're gonna play the same numbers?" Same numbers?" "You want me to play twenty-two?" "No, no. I'm gonna play twenty, and you play twenty-two". And so on.
Never Been Kissed (1999) IMDB ** Very catchy mathsy song is playing while we see The Denominators, members of a maths club, in maths action. The movie includes a hilariously bad expansion of π.
The New Math(s) (1997) (TV) IMDB *** Totally incomprehensible Hal Hartley short. A teacher and his two students are studying mathematics in the bowels of a factory. There's a blackboard filled will what seem to power series and sech functions. None of it seems to make any sense, though that's entirely consistent with the rest of the film.
Newton: a Tale of Two Isaacs (1997) (TV) IMDB *** A romanticised biography of Isaac Newton, intended for schoolchildren. Cheesy but fun, with a little mathematics of gravitation.
Ni Vivo, Ni Muerto (2002) IMDB ** A mathematician gets in involved in the political violence in Argentina. A couple ODE's in the background.
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009) IMDB *** The Egyptian Kahmunrah awakens and wants the code to unlock the Gate to the Underworld. It turns out to be π "the number at the heart of the pyramids". Weirder, the code is the decimal expansion of π. There's also a funny bit where Larry teases Kahmunrah for not knowing about the secrets of the Cube of Rubik. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
No Highway in the Sky (1951) IMDB *** Jimmy Stewart plays a boffin investigating his theory about metal fatigue in airplanes. When (luckily) his theory seems to be wrong, Marlene Dietrich teases him for multiplying when he should have divided. In his spare time, Stewart tries to solve Goldbach's conjecture. "Sounds interesting, but, isn't it a little pointless?" "Oh, quite. That's the beauty of it."
No One Would Tell (1996) (TV) IMDB * A little school algebra in one scene.
Novo (2002) IMDB ** Graham/Pablo cannot remember things but is supposedly very good at mental arithmetic, and Isabelle tests him. He asks him 347 x 347 and 4092 x 6549. Unbeknownst to Isabelle (blooper?), he gets them both wrong. He's then working on (7685 x 7639) − √ 7639, but gets distracted by Isabelle's legs.
Not One Less (Yi Ge Dou Bu Neng Shao) (1999) IMDB *** Very sweet Chinese movie about a 13 year old girl who starts teaching in a poor mountain school, and who goes off to find a student lost in the city. Extended scenes where the children are calculating the number of bricks they need to haul to be paid enough to afford the necessary bus tickets.
No Way Out (1987) IMDB * Quick reference to eigenvalues and Fourier transforms, for cleaning up data.
The Number 23 (2007) IMDB ** Jim Carrey discovers a thousand crazy ways to add up to 23. And there's one vector integral, for God knows what reason. Clip on Oliver Knill's page
The Nugget (2002) IMDB ** Eric Bana and his mates clumsily work out how much their huge gold nugget is worth. The final sum is incorrect.
Ocean's Eleven (2001) IMDB * One "You do the math" scene and one "Imagine the odds" scene.
October Sky (1999) IMDB ** A kid in a coal mining community wants to become a rocket scientist. He realizes that he'll have to get good at maths. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Office Space (1999) IMDB ** A weird comedy about computer programmers skimming money by rounding down their company's paychecks to the nearest cent.
Oh God! Book II (1980) IMDB *** George Burns as God helps a little girl do her maths: the father is impressed by his work. God also admits to mistakenly making maths too hard. Clip on our maths clips page.
Old School (2003) IMDB ** Some very old frat boys take an exam. Apparently Harriot's method for solving cubics is a "generally accepted graphical technique for determining first order system parameters". Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Omar Khayyam (1957) IMDB *** Cornel Wilde is an improbable Omar Khayyam in this Hollywood biopic. A lot of poetry and romance, and a little bit of maths.
Once Upon a Time in the West (C'era Una Volta Il West) (1968) IMDB ** Some funny arithmetic 1-liners. Three bad guys with their horses, to the horseless Charles Bronson: "Looks like we're shy of one horse". Bronson's response: "You brought two too many". Clips on Oliver Knill's page.
Only Yesterday (Omohide Poro Poro) (1991) IMDB *** A very sweet anime about Taeko, who is recalling her shy and awkward childhood. A theme is Taeko's weakness at mathematics, and there is a long scene about division of fractions. Taeko thinks long and unsuccessfully about how to divide 2/3 of a cake by 1/4. .
Out of Sight (Lemarit Ain) (2006) IMDB * Ya'ara, the main character, is blind and is doing a PhD in mathematics at Princeton. No maths. .
Outside Providence (1999) IMDB ** Dunphy fails to solve an already solved quadratic. Having worked very hard, he later successfully solves the exact same already solved quadratic.
The Oxford Murders (2008) IMDB **** A fun murder mystery with two mathematicians (John Hurt and Elijah Wood) taking on the role of detectives. One scene has a professor proving "Bormat's Last Theorem". Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
P.S. (2004) IMDB * One physics lecture contains blackboards full of formulas on gravitation. Clip on Oliver Knill's page
Paradisio (1961) IMDB ** A maths professor comes into possession of glasses which makes people appear nude. He somehow uses the formula πr2 to estimate distances for his photographs.
Parallel Life (2010) IMDB ** The lives of characters are supposed to run parallel to previous lives. This includes a mathematician, who believes his life parallels Kurt Gödel's. He writes crazy probabilistic mathematics on the walls, screams "A coincidence is mathematically impossible", and eventually starves himself to death (a la Gödel).
Les Passagers (1999) IMDB ** A gay ex-maths teacher concludes that gays being hardest hit by AIDS is a simple matter of arithmetic.
Patch Adams (1998) IMDB * A brilliant scientist in an insane asylum does maths and frustrates people by holding up 4 fingers and challenging them: "How many fingers do you see?"
Pay it Forward (2000) IMDB ** For his school social studies project, Trevor thinks to offer life-changing help to three people, who are each then inspired to similarly offer help to three people, and so on. A bit of mathematics, figuring out the geometric explosion.
Peter the Great (1986) (TV) IMDB *** Peter the Great visits Isaac Newton to discuss his Principia.
Petersen (1974) IMDB ** Real-live mathematician Iain Aitchison appears in a crowd scene.
The Phantom Tollbooth (1970) IMDB *** When Milo visits Digitopolis, its ruling Mathemagician convinces him of the infinity of numbers by adding 1 again and again. Earlier, the Mathemagician sings a version of Zeno's paradox, suggesting that Milo keep dividing his troubles in two until they disappear. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Phase IV(1974) IMDB ** A mathematician communicates with intelligent ants.
Phenomenon (1996) IMDB * John Travolta turns into a genius with special abilities. In one scene we see him listing through a maths book.
Pi (1998) IMDB ***** The mathematical prodigy Max is looking for pattern in nature and in the stock market. Tons of maths.
Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) IMDB ** One of the teachers who goes missing at Hanging Rock is a maths teacher. We see her reading a geometry text.
Pierino Contro Tutti (Desirable Teacher) (1981) IMDB * The poster for the English version has a sexy teacher pointing to 2 + 2 = 4 on the blackbaord. No actual maths in the movie.
The Pirates of Penzance (1983) IMDB (and many other versions) *** The very famous patter song: I am the very model of a modern Major-General ... I'm very well acquainted, too, with matters mathematical. I understand equations, both the simple and quadratical. About binomial theorem I'm teeming with a lot o' news. With many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse ...
Planeta Bur (Planet of Storms) (1962) IMDB ** One of the characters is a mathematician. No maths.
Plaga Zombie (1997) IMDB ** Max is a mathematician, one of three non-zombie pals in a town of zombies. No maths.
Plaga Zombie: Zona Mutante (2001) IMDB ** Max is back, in the sequel to Plaga Zombie. Still no maths.
Pleasantville (1998) IMDB *** In the sitcom world of Pleasantville, a geography teacher explains how the town loops back on itself. Very funny scene, but on the DVD commentary the writer-director shows he's completely confused. Clip on our maths clips page.
Popstar (2005) IMDB *** The popstar befriends the maths geek in order to survive calculus. Such a painful movie, you end up cheering for the Heathers. Somehow the Mean Value Theorem is used to graph x times cosine y.
Possible Worlds (2000) IMDB *** Excellent multiverse movie, reminiscent of Brain Dead. George talks of doing a problem on a maths test at school, and seeing himself in another world, doing the problem in a different way. In another scene, George is in a job interview, and instantly sees the trick behind a very convoluted finance problem. "You did the sums in your head?" "Yes." "... The next question will be a little more difficult ..." The screenplay and original play are by John Mighton, maths consultant on Good Will Hunting.
Il Posto (1961) IMDB ** The main character applies for a job. A main part of the assessment test is to solve the following problem: We have a roll of copper wire 520 meters long. Three-quarters of it are cut off. Of the remainder, we cut off four-fifths. How many centimeters of wire are left on the roll?" He's got one hour to solve this problem. His (and his friend's) answer of 24 is wrong, even ignoring the units. Still, he gets the job.
Precious (2009) IMDB * A bleak (but very good) movie about Precious, an obese, unloved and pregnant ghetto girl. She's illiterate but bright, and she likes maths. No maths in the movie, except for from some arithmetic on a blackboard.
Presumed Innocent (1990) IMDB ** A jealous wife (who happens to be a mathematician working on her dissertation) commits murder and gets away with it.
Primer (2004) IMDB * Cool time travel movie, with a few maths references: "The best mathematician's a lazy one".
The Prince and the Pauper (1990) IMDB *** Mickey Mouse as the prince has to sit through a very boring trigonometry lesson.
The Professor and his Beloved Equation (Hakase no Aishita Sûshiki) (2006) IMDB ***** Lovely movie about a mathematics professor who only remembers things for a short time. He likes perfect and amicable numbers and his favorite equation is Euler's identity: eiπ+1=0.
Proof (2005) IMDB ***** Excellent adaptation of David Auburn's excellent play. Gwyneth Paltrow is a troubled mathematician, coming to terms with the death of her troubled mathematician father. Clip on Oliver Knill's page
Prophecy (1995) IMDB ** Christopher Walken as a cynical angel: "See ya, kids. Study your maths. Key to the universe." Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Prospero's Books (1991) IMDB * One of Prospero's books is a maths book featuring animated geometric drawings.
Punch Lady (Peon-chi Le-i-di) (2007) IMDB ** A woman who is training for a kickboxing fight with her abusive husband, and a maths teacher falls into guiding her. He comes up with a complicated plan involving precise angles of kicks and dodges: wisely, she ignores him.
A Pure Formality (Una Pura Formalità) (1994) IMDB *** A famous writer has written a book about a mathematician (Claude?) Shannon, and attributes his passion for maths to one of his maths teachers. He ponders projective geometry: "Two parallel lines can never meet. Nonetheless, it is possible to imagine the existence of a point so far out in space so far into infinity that we can believe and acknowledge that our two lines do in fact meet there. We shall call this point the ideal point." Clip on our maths clips page.
Pythagoras and the Thirty Virgins (1977) IMDB **** Crazy Czech movie, starring European heartthrob Karel Gott as a teacher. He sings a catchy Pythagoras song to his students and becomes a pop star.
Quality Street (1937) IMDB *** A very funny scene: an arithmetic problem with herring, and the suggestion to use real herring to check the answer. Some of the very funny maths lines from J. M. Barrie's play failed to make it to the movie. Clip on our maths clips page.
Quest of the Delta Knights (1993) IMDB ** Archimedes being killed by a Roman soldier.
Qui Perd Gagne! (Loser Takes all) (2003) IMDB *** A maths teacher claims to have found a system for predicting the lottery and proves it by winning the jackpot twice. An expert gambler with a perfect memory is called in by the police to catch the supposed cheat. Fun movie with lots of maths and mathematically-minded people.
Race for the Bomb (1987) (TV) IMDB ** The mathematician John von Neumann makes a fleeting appearance: it may have been a larger role in the original, much longer version.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) IMDB * In one scene there's a blackboard with kinematic equations.
Rain Man (1988) IMDB ** Dustin Hoffmann is autistic, and really good at numbers. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Raising Genius (2004) IMDB *** Ugh! This brain-piercing movie contains the single most annoying maths character of all time. (No, we haven't forgotten Late Bloomers). The monumentally whiny Hal has locked himself in the bathroom to do his maths (PDE's). And to to ogle Lacy, the practising cheerleader over the fence (Danica McKellar). He refuses to come out ("I can't leave my Lipschitz conditions"), and gets annoyed at Lacy's repeated losing the beat on "seven". At the end, he realises that the "Lacy Perturbation" is the key to his equations.
$$$ Ramanujan (2014) IMDB **** A weepy and ponderous Tamil biopic. Still, it's Ramanujan so there's things to see. Partitions get a good mention, and the sum 1 + 2 + 3 ... = -1/12 briefly appears. The famous sum-of-two-cubes taxi cab appears near the end.
Reality Bites (1994) IMDB ** Winona Ryder and Ben Stiller are discussing how they loved astronomy except for the maths: "It was like, everything was three squared, times pi, equals the root of ... pi, yeah ... and I just wanted to look at the stars." Later, David Spade tests Winona to be a cashier at a fast food restaurant: "85 and 45. Go!" "... One f-forty." "Nope". "One f-fifty." "Nope." "One sixty." "It's not an auction". Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Real Genius (1985) IMDB *** Three consecutive lectures: fewer and fewer students, and more and more recording devices. In the last scene even the lecturer is replaced by a recording. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Red Planet (2000) IMDB *** Some astronauts have just crashlanded on Mars and are trying to figure out where they are: "All the mission data is in here we just got to close in on the downrange variables. It's about the maths." "This is it, the moment they told us about in high school when one day algebra would save our lives." Soon afterwards Val Kilmer solves their problem by using a little bit of geometry involving the mirror reflection of a picture.
Red Planet Mars (1952) IMDB *** While biting into a pie a boy has the idea to use the decimal expansion of π to communicate with aliens.
Revelation (2001) IMDB ** Isaac Newton appears in a brief scene, as an alchemist.
The Revenge of Doctor X (1970) IMDB ** Z-grade horror film about a NASA mathematician who really wants to be a botanist, and creates a venus flytrap man-monster.
Revolutionary Road (2008) IMDB ** John, a mentally disturbed mathematician, is a mirror for the two main characters. He talks about his shock therapy: "Supposed to jolt out the emotional problems. Just jolted out the mathematics." "How awful." "Why?" Clip on Oliver Knill's page
Ringu (Ring) (1998) IMDB ** Ryuji is a mathematician who tries to save his ex-wife from a curse. Ryuji's girlfriend performs the Straw Dogs prank of switching a minus sign in his blackboard calculations. Clip on Oliver Knill's page
The Road to Hong Kong (1962) IMDB *** A Bob Hope and Bing Crosby movie with a couple very funny maths routines. Clip on our maths clips page.
Rocketship X-M (1950) IMDB ** "A differential 6 over M to the 30th power, the half-way check result is 262 000 and 341 000, both using tangent 8. Correct?"
Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead (1990) IMDB *** Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have a coin come up heads more than 157 times in a row. As they continue to toss the coin, they discuss what this means.
Roxanne (1987) IMDB * Daryl Hannah as Roxanne is an astronomer who discovers a "mathematical irregularity" of a comet's orbit.
The Rules of Attraction (2002) IMDB *** A very funny scene where a girl decides that wearing two condoms is 196% safe. Clip on our maths clips page.
Rushmore (1998) IMDB *** The movie begins with a dream sequence in which a mathematical underachiever fantasises that he becomes the hero of the class, by solving a super difficult maths problem. The problem they show is to calculate the area of an ellipse, which is quite routine.
S4 (2008) IMDB ** Crazy low-budget Roswell movie, with aliens impregnating male marines. The aliens are turned on by ears and maths.
The Saint (1997) IMDB * A nuclear chemist figures out the key to cold fusion. Napkins with the relevant equations appear in a few scenes. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
$$$ Safe (2012) IMDB *** A young girl genius is forced to be a human calculator for Chinese mobsters. A bit of discussion about a number she has to memorise being code for a safe combination. One scene where the girl shows up the teacher, though her answer appears to have nothing to do with the parabolas and quadratics on the blackboard in the background.
Coarse Salt (Sal Gorda) (1984) IMDB ** A composer has 47 hours to write 10 songs, which apparently amounts to 4 hours and 7 minutes per song.
Salem's Lot (TV) (1997) IMDB ** David Soul comes up with a vampire population model: "They're breeding on one another! Vampires are creating vampires. It's a geometric progression: 2 times 2 times 4 times 8." Luckily, David is better at staking than sequences. Clip on our maths clips page.
Sarangni (Close to You) (2005) IMDB *** Strange movie. A maths teacher gets involved with a student who reminds her of, or maybe is, a dead childhood friend. Some detailed maths, including a long scene on getting the complex cube roots of 1.
The Santa Claus 3 (2006) IMDB * "Alright class, if a reindeer leaves Ellsberg flying West at 20 miles per hour, and another reindeer flies East travelling at 50 miles per hour, how many hours does it take for them to be 210 miles apart. Clip on our maths clips page.
The Saragossa Manuscript (Rekopis Znaleziony w Saragossie) (1965) IMDB ** Some noblemen are pondering the nature of infinity.
A Scanner Darkly (2006) IMDB ** The druggies seem confused that a bike with 6 gears in the back and 3 in the front is claimed to be 18-speed: the popular answer is that the bike is 9-speed.
Schoolgirl Report 4 (Schulmädchen-Report 4) (1972) IMDB ** Some kids make out whilst the teacher goes on about Schiller. The binomial formula is on the blackboard in the background.
The School of Rock (2003) IMDB *** Jack Black is intent upon teaching his students rock music. When surprised by the principal, he improvises a very funny maths song.
Sebastian (1968) IMDB ** A mathematician is in charge of a special codebreaking unit, consisting exclusively of beautiful young woman.
Secretos del Corazón (Secrets of the Heart) (1997) IMDB * A couple of arithemtic problems on a school blackboard.
El Seductor (1995) IMDB ** Cosme is a precocious high school student. It turns out he's also precocious at pursuing women. A little algebra when he's not thus occupied.
Sekret Enigmy (1979) IMDB ** Movie about the Polish contribution to breaking the Enigma code in WWII. Features a calculation of the astronomical number of different settings of the Enigma machine.
Serial Mom (1994) IMDB ** A maths teacher is murdered by a homicidal mother.
A Serious Man (2009) IMDB *** Some (incorrect) mathematical calculations for quantum mechanics, and a humongous blackboard. Our colleague QEDcat has a cameo role as Schrödinger's cat. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976) IMDB ** Sherlock Holmes: "The only time Professor Moriarty really occupied the role of my nemesis was when it took him three weeks to make clear to me the mysteries of elementary calculus."
She Wrote the Book (1946) IMDB **** A woman maths professor lectures about the radius of convergence of power series. In a very funny scene she discusses whether she likes bridges and applies (correctly!) the law of tangents. Clip on our maths clips page.
Shack Out on 101 (1955) IMDB * B grade spy movie, with a theoretical physicist. A few equations.
Shrieker (1998) IMDB *** An incredibly bad horror movie, featuring a higher-dimensional monster and a maths student hero, who fortuitously specializes in "multi-dimensional topography". Clip on our maths clips page.
The Siege of Syracuse (L'Assedio di Siracusa) (1960) IMDB **** Archimedes as the hero in a sword and sandals flick?! The usual geometrical constructions, and the use of parabolic mirrors to burn Roman warships, and women's dresses. Clip on our maths clips page.
Silent Star (1960) IMDB ** A mathematician is included on a trip to Venus. He helps decode Venusian messages, but is mostly there as cannon fodder.
Si Versailles M'Était Conté (1954) IMDB ** The mathematician Jean d'Alembert appears, but he has no speaking lines.
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004) IMDB ** Gwyneth Paltrow is spotted with the book Isaac Newton's Mathematical Principles of Modern Philosophy.
$$$ The Sleeping Cardinal (1931) IMDB ** A couple of references to Moriarty having been a mathematics professor.
Small Time Crooks (2000) IMDB *** Woody Allen weaves in some funny fractions when the not so bright bank robbers try to work out their shares of the loot.
Smilla's Sense of Snow (1997) IMDB ** Smilla: "The only thing that makes me truly happy is mathematics, snow, ice, numbers. To me the number system is like human life. First you have the natural numbers, the ones that are whole and positive like the numbers of a small child ..." Clips on Oliver Knill's page.
$$$ Solar Destruction (2008) IMDB * A child prodigy in college is able to predict solar flares. A couple quick maths jokes, but no real maths.
Sneakers (1992) IMDB ** A mathematician's codebreaking device becomes the inspiration for spy games. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Solid Geometry (2002) (TV) IMDB ***** A man reads his grandfather's work on "a plane without a surface", and applies it to make his unwanted girlfriend disappear.
$$$ Son of Sinbad (1955) IMDB * Vincent Price is an improbable Omar Khayyam. Unfortunately he's all poe, and there's no mathematics.
Spaceways (1953) IMDB ** Features a female "higher" mathematician, who "has everything, including emotions, neatly reduced to equations and theorems."
The Spanish Prisoner (1997) IMDB *** Intrigue centered around a valuable industrial process. Bits and pieces of maths as decoration: painting of Luca Pacioli, commuting diagram, multivariate calculus, etc.
Sphere (1998) IMDB ** Features a perfect sphere as the main focus of attention. Samuel L. Jackson plays a mathematician, and there's some nonsensical code breaking.
Spider-Man 2 (2004) IMDB *** Spiderman knows that Jacob Bernoulli found the curves of quickest descent. He also knows his eigenvalues.
Spider-Man 3 (2007) IMDB * A Hamiltonian and some matrices in a classroom physics scene.
Square Root of Three (Lidris Cuadrade di Tre) (2001) IMDB ** Three guys break into school to alter their maths exams, and the horror begins. A really creepy √3 in the titles, and a few exponential limits on a blackboard.
St. Trinians (2007) IMDB *** "What is the volume of a sphere? Yes, Peaches, you got there first". "Quite loud". Apparently the correct answer is "pi R cubed". Clip on our maths clips page.
Stand and Deliver (1988) IMDB ***** Great movie about the legendary maths teacher Jaime Escalante, motivating his students in a poor school in East Los Angeles. Clip on our maths clips page. Clips on Oliver Knill's page.
Stand-In (1937) IMDB **** Mathematician Attenbury Dodd does everything mathematically, including dancing, and knocking out a bully using the principle that "the straight line is the shortest distance between two points."
Star Trek (2009) IMDB ** Spock as a child learns some mathematics, including the volume of a sphere. Later, as an adult, he repeats his "eliminate the impossible" line from Star Trek VI. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991) IMDB * Spock: "An ancestor of mine maintained that if you eliminate the impossible whatever remains however improbable must be the truth."
Stargate (1994) IMDB ** An alien map uses constellations (in a not very convincing manner) to indicate coordinates in space.
Starship Troopers (1997) IMDB * The scores in a maths final indicate who's going to be the pilots, and who's going to be cannon fodder.
The Story of Mankind (1957) IMDB *** An ageing but still funny Harpo Marx plays Isaac Newton, getting hit on the head with apples.
Stranger than Fiction (2006) IMDB *** Will Ferrell plays a nerdy IRS accountant, a character in Emma Thompson's novel, who begins to hear Emma's narration of the plot. He is "a man of infinite numbers, endless calculations and remarkably few words". His favourite word is "integer". At one point he correctly calculates 67 x 453, but changes it it to agree with the narrator's incorrect calcualtion. A tower of Hanoi appears in Dustin Hoffman's office.
Strangers on a Train (1951) IMDB *** Hitchcock movie, which includes a very funny scene with a drunk mathematician discussing calculus.
Straw Dogs (1971) IMDB *** Dustin Hoffmann as a mathematician driven to extremes to defend his house. He also counts to 100 in binary and there are some good calculus blackboards: his wife amuses herself by switching a minus sign in his calculations. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Strike it Rich (1990) IMDB *** Bertram is a low-level accountant and an amateur mathematician, who is smitten by Molly Ringwald: "In my dream, I'd dared to ask her out ... the only glamour in my life was the dance of numbers". His maths isn't so hot when he later tries to guess Molly's phone number: "Do you realize there are 30 permutations of the numbers 4, 0 and 8, with a random double?" Actually, there are 36 such permutations.
Succubus (Necronomicon - Geträumte Sünden) (1968) IMDB *** Bizarre scene in which someone is playing the piano from a geometry book whilst a woman is taking off her clothes. Clip on our maths clips page.
Summer Night Fever (1978) IMDB * Features a sexy maths teacher. No maths.
Summer Wars (2009) IMDB ** Kenji is a maths genius, who is tricked into cracking the encryption of an online site. In one scene he does the day of birth trick.
A Summer's Tale (Conte d'Été) (1996) IMDB ** One of the main characters is doing a masters in maths.
Superman III (1983) IMDB * A computer scientist figures out how to skim money from his company by rounding down their checks and pocketing the fractions of a cent.
Super Mario Bros. (1993) IMDB ** A lizard-man exits an evolution machine. He promptly, and incorrectly, declares that the square root of 26 481 is 191.
Supernova (2000) IMDB *** The crew of a spaceship come across a bomb made from higher-dimensional matter. Very nice graphics (correct up to a certain point), which show how to build 2-D projections of higher-dimensional cubes.
Suspect X (Yôgisha X No Kenshin) (2008) IMDB **** A terrific battle of wits between a physicist-detective and a mathematician-suspect. "But his specialty is maths, not homicide." "Yes, but homicide would prove an easier challenge." Lots of maths and mathematical metaphors. A stunning scene in a prison cell involving the four color theorem. Clip on our maths clips page. Clips on Oliver Knill's page.
Suspicion (1941) IMDB ** Calculation that winning a 200 pounds bet at 10:1 is 2000 pounds.
Swimming With Sharks (1994) IMDB * Passing reference to the antihero playing a zero sum game.
Swing Girls (2004) IMDB ** It turns out that Ozawa, the straightlaced and lifeless maths teacher, is crazy about jazz (and an awful saxophonist). One maths scene, calculcating areas cut off by straight lines.
Team America: World Police (2004) IMDB *** A very funny running joke, beginning with a terrorist plot that will be "Nine eleven times a hundred". "Jesus, that's..." "Yes. Ninety-one thousand one hundred." Clip on our maths clips page.
Teen Patti (2010) IMDB **** A weird Bollywood version of 21, with a bit of Persi Diaconis thrown in. Professor Subramaniam has some theory of randomness, and he and his students apply it to win at Teen Patti (basically three-card poker). The professor gives an awful and incorrect explanation of the Monty Hall Problem (the door to be opened is chosen randomly). Ben Kinglsey plays a Cambridge professor of applied mathematics, who presents Subramaniam with the Isaac Newton Award for Applied Mathematics. Kingsley also gets the best line: "Gambling is our way of telling the universe that we're a match for it." The credits roll to a truly crazy "Life is a Game" music video. Clip on our maths clips page.
Teresa's Tattoo (1994) IMDB *** Teresa is doing a PhD in applied maths and does not have much luck in communicating to others what she does. Some funny scenes.
The Thin Man (1934) IMDB ** Some funny dialogue about the Mendelian law of inheritance guaranteeing that only 1 out of 4 of Dorothy's children will be a murderer.
That's Adequate (1989) IMDB *** Crazy scene, featuring Einstein as a young pirate discovering E=mc2 whilst watching a volcano erupt.
Thirteen Conversations About One Thing (2001) IMDB ** maths professor teaching basic laws of motion.
This is Spinal Tap (1984) IMDB *** Hilarious scene in which a rock star explains why it is important to have amplifiers that go up to 11 instead of just 10. Another scene where confusion between feet (') and inches (") results in the building of a miniscule Stonehenge.
Three O'Clock High (1987) IMDB ** The school thug is caught cheating on an algebra test. When quizzed by the principal, it turns out that he knew the answers anyway. A blooper on the quiz, where the instruction for some equations is "Simplify each expression". Clip on our maths clips page. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Thru the Moebius Strip (2005) IMDB *** Jack prepares to go through the Moebius field portal, to find his father Simon Weir, 27.2 light years away. Arthur the robot is asked to simply explain the portal: "When a three−dimensional cylindrical loop is given a 180 degree twist, it becomes a two−dimensional mathematical oddity known as a Moebius strip. By twisting two of the existing parameters of space, Professor Weir was able to manipulate the third parameter, which is distance ..." "You call that simply?".
Time Machine (2002) IMDB ** An absolutely humongous wall covered with blackboards. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Tin Man (2007) IMDB ** In the final episode of this miniseries, the scarecrow Glitch ponders his lack of brains: "You know, when I had a brain, I was twice as scared as I am now with only half a brain. Which means that, if I had no brain at all, I would be four times braver than I was when I was brainy."
Titanic (1997) IMDB * Rose figures out that there are not enough life boats on the Titanic to accommodate everybody. After the Titanic hits the iceberg, Mr. Andrews states that it is a mathematical certainty that the Titanic will sink.
To Sir, with Love (1967) IMDB * Miscellaneous bits and pieces of simple maths in classroom scene.
Tom & Viv (1994) IMDB *** Bertrand Russel is one of the characters. Viv, T.S. Elliot's wife, solves a few nice mathematical brainteasers.
Top of the Form (1953) IMDB ** "Professor" Fortescue is a racetrack tout, claiming to be "senior wrangler" of Oxford. He hides out at a boy's school, where a blackboard indicates he teaches (x+1)/(x+2) = (x+1)/x + (x+1)/2.
Torchy Gets Her Man (1938) IMDB *** Gahagan has a mathematical scheme for betting on the horses: "I make my mind go blank until a number pops into it. Then I multiply the number by the same number, and the last number of the result is the horse I plunk it on". He uses his system to pick horse 7 (because 6 x 6 = 37), then 4 (4 x 4 = 14), then 9 (9 x 9 = 99), then 7 (7 x 7 = 47), then 8 (8 x 8 = 68). He wins. Clip on our maths clips page.
Torn Curtain (1966) IMDB *** Hitchcock movie in which Paul Newman plays an American scientist supposedly defecting to the East. Great scene where the mathematical theories are competing. Lots of calculations on blackboards, and the symbol π used as a secret sign.
Twilight (2008) IMDB ** Bella is trying to figure out Edward the vampire: "You gotta give me some answers." "Yes... No... To get to the other side... 1.77245..." "I don't want to know what the square root of Pi is." "You knew that?"
$$$ The Undercover Man (1949) IMDB * An Al Capone-ish story, trying to capture a gangster by following the bookkeeping. No real mathematics.
Up in the Air (2009) IMDB ** Ryan (George Clooney) calculates for Natalie the time she loses by checking in luggage. "35 minutes a flight. I travel 270 days a year. That's 157 hours. That makes 7 days". Later, Natalia quizzes Ryan about his aim to accumulate 10 000 000 flier miles. "Isn't ten million just a number?" "Pi is just a number". Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
The Verdict (1982) IMDB * Paul Newman plays a lawyer who is in line to receive one third of the settlement of a law suit. He notices that the offered amount is $210,000, very conveniently divisible by 3.
Véronique et Son Cancre (Veronique and Her Dunce) (1958) IMDB *** In this Rohmer short, Veronique tutors a supposed dunce. She teaches him about division by fractions, but his questioning makes clear to her that she also doesn't really understand what's going on.
Village of the Damned (1960) IMDB * Creepy blond children learn very quickly, including a scene with some relativity equations.
The Virgin Suicides (1999) IMDB *** Teacher in action teaching Venn diagrams. One of the blackboards is adorned with a messed-up decimal expansion of π. In a another scene we see a blackboard with problems relating to finding the derivative of a quadratic function.
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961) IMDB * Minor references to maths in a scientific dispute about how to save the Earth.
Voyage to the End of the Universe (Ikarie XB 1) (1963) IMDB ** Anthony is a quirky old mathematician on a space ship. He doesn't seem to do any maths, though at one point "the Pythagorean Proposition" is used to make contact with an unknown space ship.
Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women (1968) IMDB ** Space expedition includes a mathematician. Various bits of mathematical rambling and smalltalk.
Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet (1965) IMDB ** Earlier version of the previous movie.
A Walk to Remember (2002) IMDB *** "Which of these are similar triangles? This one or that one, huh? Whaddya think?" "Man, I think this is bullshit!" " ... That makes two of us." Later, we see isoceles and similar triangles on a basketball court. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
Wall Street (1987) IMDB * One-liner: "It's a zero-sum game, somebody wins and somebody loses".
Waterboys (2001) IMDB *** Some schoolboys take up synchronized swimming. One is a maths wiz who uses geometric diagrams to plan one of their routines. Clip on our maths clips page.
What the #$*! Do ωΣ K(π)ow!? (2004) IMDB ** Flaky, pseudoscientific nonsense, with maths stuck in here and there.
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) IMDB *** Some funny scenes involving percentages. One has a teacher uses Wonka Bars to teach percentages. Another has a total of 105%. A computer is programmed to find golden tickets based on "computonian law of probability".
Wish Upon a Star (1996) IMDB *** Several funny classroom scenes. One "worked" problem: A cleaning solution is made up of three chemicals. A, B, and C (Haley writes A, B, and C on the blackboard) So far so good. There are equal amounts of A and B and four times as much C as there is A. What percentage of the bottle is full of C?
Witness (1985) IMDB ** Harrison Ford sings along to Sam Cooke's famous song: "Don't know much geography, Don't know much trigonometry, Don't know much about algebra Don't know what a slide rule is for. But I know that one and one is two, And if this one could be with you What a wonderful this would be"
Wittgenstein (1993) IMDB ** Bertrand Russell appears. No explicit maths or logic, but we do see Russell at the barber, a sly reference to the liar paradox.
The Wizard of Oz (1939) IMDB *** The scarecrow proves to himself (but nobody else) that he's got a brain by trying to recite Pythagoras's theorem: "The sum of the square roots of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the remaining side." Clip on our maths clips page. Clip on Oliver Knill's page.
The World is Not Enough (1999) IMDB *** A bomb is travelling through at 70 miles per hour, and is 106 miles from its target. James Bond immediately pronounces that they have 78 minutes. In fact, they have 91 minutes.
Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) IMDB ** Sweet 1-liner about the breaking up of a vaudeville group: 1 from 4 leaving nothing.
Yes, Sir, Mr. Bones (1951) IMDB *** Ches Davis and Flournoy Miller perform a version of the 7 x 13 = 28 sketch. Exaggerated and weird, due to the blacks in blackface aspect, but still very good.
Yo Hice A Roque III (1980) IMDB *** Hilarious scene, arguing about whether a boxer needs to lose weight for the fight, and confusing grams, kilograms and pounds.
The Young Animals (Born Wild) (1968) IMDB * A Mexican versus Gringo movie, featuring a bit of arithmetic and a racist maths teacher.
Young Einstein (1988) IMDB *** Quirky comedy where Albert Einstein grows up on an apple farm in Tasmania and rediscovers Newton's theories. He later moves to a great city, falls in love with Marie Curie and discovers everything else that the (real) Albert Einstein is famous for.
Your Name Poisons My Dreams (Tu Nombre Envenena Mis Sueño) (1996) IMDB ** A bleak political film, with one of the characters a mathematics teacher. At the end of the movie, he ponders at a funeral: "We walked together over a Möbius strip and we passed to the other side, to the emptiness, as in mathematics."
You're the One (Una Historia de Entonces) (2000) IMDB *** In one scene a boy is trying to memorize the following facts about polyhedra by reading them out loud a number of times (with slight variations): "Bodies which have plane faces are called polyhedrons. The polyhedrons which have equal faces and angles are called regular, and there are five of them: The tetrahedron, the octahedron, the icosahedron, the hexahedron or cube, and the dodecahedron. This is really hard. It's easy to remember the tetrahedron. Because of 'tit' ".
Yours, Mine and Ours (2005) IMDB ** A man with 8 children marries a woman with 10 children: "Party of Five, times three, plus My Three Sons".
$$$ Zootopia (2016) IMDB ** "Dumb bunny" Hopps turns out to be good at multiplication, and Mayor Bellwether makes a blooper with her ratios.
Still to Locate (Help!)
There are a number of obscure movies that we are keen to locate, some of which are listed below. As well, there are undoubtedly many maths movies out there that have never even occurred to us. If you think you have something new for us, we'd be delighted to hear from you!
La Chèvre d'Or (1942) IMDB Blaise Pascal is apparently a character.
Évariste Galois (1984) A short TV movie by Danièle Baudrier.
Famous Boners (1942) IMDB Isaac Newton appears, presumably doing something clumsy with an apple.
A Lover's Oath (1925) IMDB Early movie about Omar Khayyam, apparently lost.
Omar the Tentmaker (1922) IMDB Another movie about Omar Khayyham, also presumably lost.
Omar Khayham (1924) IMDB One more early movie about Omar.
Les Maîtres du Soleil (1984) IMDB Pierre de Fermat is apparently a character.
Matemática Zero, Amor Dez (1958) IMDB An obscure Brazilian musical, about which we know absolutely nothing!
Jimtown Speakeasy (1928) A very early sound movie, with Miller and Lyles performing the "Abbott and Costello" multiplication skit. We've seen only a fragment.